By on October 28, 2019

Watching Mitsubishi return from death’s door has been less exciting than the first part of this sentence makes it sound. Part of that stems from the automaker’s position as a multinational corporation that has lost its way and not some down-on-his-luck boxer you’re supposed to be rooting for in a movie. Even if you were inclined to clap for corporate comebacks, Mitsubishi hasn’t earned its standing ovation just yet.

While the brand’s U.S. sales have improved every year since 2013, progress has been gradual. Last year, Mitsubishi moved 118,074 autos inside America — the best it has managed since before the Great Recession, but nowhere near its 2002 high of 345,915 deliveries. That might paint the situation a bit darker than it actually is, however.

Mitsubishi has actually managed to retain customers in China far better than it could in the U.S. and its European sales are higher than they’ve ever been. The Japanese firm also has a strong footprint in numerous developing markets around the world. But North America has historically been an extremely important market for Mitsubishi, and it wants its market share back, so it’s making some additional changes. 

The most-obvious alterations involve moving the brand’s North American headquarters from Southern California to of Franklin, TN. While largely a cost-cutting measure (less rent), this change also puts Mitsubishi within walking distance of Nissan’s North American headquarters — likely strengthening their relationship within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

According to Automotive News, Mitsubishi says this is all being done to help make the automaker ultra flexible. It’s also hoping to take on new talent that would help it change the corporate environment and come up with some new ideas.

“As we bring a new worker to the company, maybe someone who has come from a high-tech background, or a smaller company maybe not in the corporate world and they’re used to different work styles and different work schedules, we want to make sure we can accommodate all of the people we are trying to attract to the company,” said Jeremy Barnes, senior director of communications for Mitsubishi Motors North America. “It really is a complete reinvention of everything that we do in the U.S., whether it’s looking at new organizational structure, whether it’s changing job functions based on our new approach to the future of our growth … Employee culture is going to be absolutely critical.”

The new space will haven a more open design than the old office in California had. Barnes indicated this would help create a more collaborative environment with the added benefit of flexible work hours. Employees also have free, unlimited access to gourmet coffee — which is a very big deal, apparently. “Something like free coffee seems so simple, and seems such a little thing, but it’s not something we currently have at Mitsubishi, and it’s one of those things we want to make sure we are offering going forward,” Barnes explained.

The coffee thing seems overblown but the rest of Mitsubishi’s strategy seems to be working well enough. This year is already shaping up to be better than 2018, with 95,571 vehicles through September. That places the manufacturer on track for its seventh consecutive year of growth inside the U.S.

From Automotive News:

Mitsubishi dealers, who are being added nearly every month, expect sales to increase as the brand trades its aging mechanicals for modern platforms shared with Nissan, its closest partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance since the two Japanese brands sell vehicles in the U.S. and Renault does not.

Mitsubishi is already operating out of temporary office space in Franklin, just across Interstate 65 from Nissan’s North American headquarters. Next year, the redesigned Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi Outlander crossovers will share an alliance platform, the companies have said, as will future Mitsubishi products.

Tomorrow’s vehicles will be incredibly important, as the brand is currently relying on a handful of crossover models (half of which use the same name) for the brunt of its North American volume. A large portion of the brand’s appeal, at least in our estimation, is its ability to sell vehicles for less by ditching some of the creature comforts and cutting-edge features you might find elsewhere. That’s a trait Mitsubishi will need to retain on future models, while making them interesting and modern enough to help rebuild public awareness.

Roughly 60 employees (out of 250) are expected to move from Southern California to the new facility in Tennessee. Mitsubishi said they were selected by how well they fit into its new corporate mindset and whether they were interested in relocating. Another 150 expected to be hired from Nashville area or sourced from other parts of the country.

Barnes said the company has no intention of snagging workers from Nissan, but noted a few did apply with Mitsubishi. Most openings are in departments like sales, marketing, human resources, dealer operations and parts and service. But the brand has said it is willing to make room for wildcards from outside of the automotive sector. “One of the things we were looking at is, people don’t necessarily have to have auto industry experience,” Barnes said. “They have to be excited and passionate about helping Mitsubishi reinvent itself.”

Mitsubishi has been “reinventing itself” for a while. But it’s been working decently thus far. Maybe these corporate changes will stack?

[Image: FotograFFF/Shutterstock]

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15 Comments on “Tomorrow’s Triumph? Mitsubishi Motors Reinventing Itself, Making Moves...”

  • avatar

    Another superfluous marque, at least in the US.

    ““They have to be excited and passionate about helping Mitsubishi reinvent itself.””

    Reinvention by selling cookie cutter copies of what everybody else sells.

    I’ve got the tagline: Hey we’re Mistubishi, we exist!

    Ironically though if I had to bet which minor player mainline marque (Mitsu, VW, Volvo, Mazda) will increase volume over the next two years, I would go Mitsu because it can churn out FICO 500 product and can split some costs with Nissan-Renault who owns a third of them.

  • avatar

    It’s pretty surprising to me that Mitsubishi is still around, but car companies are basically too big to fail, unless you have an incredibly limited portfolio (like Fiat in the US). If you have a decently large mix of cars/SUVs, you can pump out whatever you want. If sales aren’t good, you’re just labeled as an underdog manufacturer that’s “reinventing” themselves.

    Although I don’t hold out much hope if their new “modern” platforms and engines are coming from Nissan.

    • 0 avatar

      “surprising to me that Mitsubishi is still around,”

      Here in the El Paso, TX area we see a lot of Mitsu products of different vintages because there is an excellent Mitsu dealer in this city, who sells at a fair price and provides excellent service if repair is needed.

      The guy across the street from me has two Mitsus, both look newish, not old. I haven’t met him yet so I haven’t had a chance to talk cars with him, but he seems dedicated to the brand.

      Trouble is, Mitsu dealerships are few and far between, like Subaru.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi Motors of North America is a bit of a misnomer, as Canadian operations are not under that company, per: “As of September 1, 2005, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan granted its Canadian operations greater independence. Now the division no longer depends on its American counterpart and reports directly to the head office in Tokyo, Japan.”

  • avatar

    Just as FCA ignores its`Fiat dealer body in cries for the Panda, Mitsu refuses to offer the Triton here.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi recently moved into a dealer location vacated by Subaru just of the freeway, across the street from a Dodge dealership. There’s also one that popped up close to a Honda dealership off 494. Another shares space with a Honda dealership and operates under the same umbrella.

    The Subaru dealership moved into a more prime location within Burnsville. Where I live there are several dealerships flying the Mitsubishi flag, the Subaru flag or the Mazda flag.

  • avatar

    So, if I’m reading this correctly, Mitsubishi’s goal is to become Nissan’s bargain brand, and maybe take Nissan itself a little upmarket, shedding the “Import brand for sub-prime customers” image?

  • avatar

    The outlook PEV is the best selling of its type in Europe. Since they have Japanese origins they will always be reliable. They are far from doomed.

  • avatar

    Why I try to come up with an answer to the question “Why Mitsubishi?” I keep coming up with Zero.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi used to be a good brand. Their now partnership with Nissan is, in my opinion, hurting them because old Mitsi drivers don’t want a CVT in a performance or off-road vehicle. If Mitsi wants to take off, they need to push electric drive, even if it’s still gas-powered. Notably better economy while offering exceptional performance FAR more responsive to the throttle than any mechanically-driven vehicle.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Put the 1.5 turbo from the Eclipse Cross in the Mirage, firm up the suspension somewhat, and sell it for a sticker of $20K (actual sale price around $18k). Voila: a 500 Abarth that doesn’t break. They wouldn’t sell a ton of them, but all the car mags and enthusiast sites would rave about it. The Fiesta ST is dying, so the world needs an affordable hot hatch, and a quick/fun Mirage would quiet a lot of the Mitsu ridicule.

    (sigh) Or turn the Mirage into a mini-CUV shitbox. Last thing the world needs, but people seem to buy them.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Nissan can offer platform sharing but agree their CVTs are less than stellar. I doubt if I will ever buy another Mitsubishi but maybe EVs might be a better direction for them to go.

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