What Dealers Want: Mitsubishi's Still Hot for Pickups, but the Waiting Is the Hardest Part
Comfortably secure in its Renault-Nissan Alliance embrace, Mitsubishi’s topmost desire is to see more dealerships in the United States. Ideally, a total of 400 by the end of this year. For dealers that actually sell Mitsubishis, product is top of mind — specifically, a truck.
Everyone’s getting into the game, yet Mitsubishi hasn’t fielded a pickup in the U.S. since the ill-fated Raider (a rebadged Dodge Dakota) met an ignominious end during the Great Recession. That’s expected to change now that Mitsu’s leading the midsize charge within the alliance. Still, those dealers can expect a long wait.
Wards Auto, which last year reported one Mitsu dealer describing the network’s wants as “a pickup truck, a pickup truck, a pickup truck,” claims dealers won’t get their wish until the automaker can ensure it has the right stuff to challenge Ford, General Motors, and Toyota.
“We would like to have (a pickup), but we’d have to have one that’s the right fit for Mitsubishi, for our demographic, and something that’s really competitive in the market,” Mark Chaffin, chief operating officer for Mitsubishi Motors North America, told the publication.
Last month, outgoing COO Trevor Mann revealed that Mitsu engineers have been tasked with creating a common pickup platform for use by all Alliance brands. As reported by Automotive News, the new platform will one day underpin the Triton, Nissan Navara, and Renault Alaskan. It might also form the basis of the next-generation Nissan Frontier, though a recent report claims the new model will appear late next year (as a 2021 model) with its existing platform in tow.
LMC Automotive data places the Frontier introduction a year later than that, but there’s no mention of its underpinnings. As for the next-gen Triton (the current version appeared in 2015 and gained upgrades and a styling refresh for 2019), LMC sees it coming to the U.S. in 2024 as a 2025 model. A five-year wait is probably not what dealers want to hear, but Chaffin isn’t interested in debuting an instant also-ran.
As it pulls back from the brink in the U.S., Mitsubishi hopes to grow its presence in underserved markets, Chaffin said — specifically, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York, and Boston. The brand added dealers in Virginia, Georgia, and Colorado this month. Still, the brand remains almost nonexistent in some markets.
“We’re not looking to crowd the market with our existing dealers, but we’re looking to spread the footprint, to get the Mitsubishi brand in front of more people,” he said.
U.S. sales rose 14 percent in 2018, with the first three months of 2019 showing a 17.6 percent gain. March was the brand’s best sales month since March of 2004.
[Images: Mitsubishi Motors]
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