QOTD: Total Eclipse of the Brand?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd total eclipse of the brand

Is Mitsubishi about to try on Fiat’s shoes? After the Japanese automaker’s CEO presented a new business plan that aligns with the goals of its alliance bunk mates late last week, it’s starting to look that way.

The Mirage maker, suddenly eager to save cash and firm up its foundation, plans to pull back in the North American market, preferring instead to focus on Southeast Asia and other overseas environs. It’s not that the brand wasn’t growing its sales in the U.S. and Canada; it was. Its dealer network was steadily adding stores, too, and 2019 was the brand’s best sales year since 2007.

What we ask you today is: should “pulling back” turn into pulling out?

Mitsubishi CEO Takao Kato stated that the brand’s push for growth in N.A. hasn’t been as successful as it would have liked. A skimpy product lineup might have something to do about that — something scarce development dollars preceding its alliance entry didn’t help, and turmoil following didn’t, either. Two crossovers in the compact class, one of them ancient, and a midsize CUV that’s long in the tooth but admittedly offers a cost-effective plug-in hybrid option. Oh, and the subcompact Mirage, a passenger car that actually saw its annual sales volume rise in 2019. A rare feat.

Given the fact that all Mitsubishi products originate overseas (the company offloaded its sole U.S. assembly plant years ago), one wonders about the bargain basement Mirage’s profit margins.

In what seems now like a lifetime ago, Mitsubishi regularly sold more than 300,000 vehicles per year in the U.S.; that trend ended after 2002. Recall the lineup back then! Oh yeah… The brand’s volume subsequently sank to less than 40,000 units in the dismal year of 2009, rising to 57,790 in 2012, 96,267 in 2016, and a decade-long high of 121,046 units in 2019.

Kato’s words seem to indicate there’ll be no return to glory for the brand on thes shores. No (legit) resurrection of cool nameplates from years past. No sports car, no pickup, no reason to get excited. If new product is indeed slated for this market, Kato didn’t provide any indication of that. His words seemed to herald a wind-down of the brand’s operations above anything else. Unlike Fiat, which returned to North America only to immediately extinguish itself like a wet campfire, Mitsubishi showed some promise over the course of the 2010s, if sales numbers mean anything (this may not be your truth, as the kids say — your author just happens to reside near a remarkably healthy Mitsubishi market).

The brand might not be for everyone, but one could see the addition of new product helping its now former goal in North America. Alas, the pandemic and the whims of the alliance have forced its hand.

So, let’s play You Make The Call. Should Mitsubishi vacate North America, or try to soldier on with its current lineup, with prospective buyers wondering if their would-be ride belongs to a soon-dead brand?

[Image: Mitsubishi]

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2 of 21 comments

    My dealership sold Oldsmobiles and Mitsubishis some years ago. One day my father came to visit and looked up at the sign on the left and said "Mitsubishi? I used to shoot them down!"

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 24, 2020

    If Mitsubishi can plug-in-hybridize all its CUVs...with power, range, and battery longevity comparable to the Toyota RAV-4 PHEV Prime but at a third less price -- then they can utterly own a niche with good growth potential, much like Subaru seeing the potential in AWD years ago. If not, then I don't see what their niche is. The Outlander PHEV is a good little rig but its development is perpetually five years behind. The Eclipse is way more desirable to me than a Trax, but that's a low bar. The Mirage is a boon to low-income buyers, but those are low-profit sales.

  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
  • RHD Inexpensive gasoline appears to be a thing of the past. ILO is correct - we have enough sunlight, wind and emerging ocean wave energy to power the entire country and then some. Clean air is nice, and being free of the whims of OPEC, geopolitics and hugely profitable oil companies will do all of us a world of good.
  • Raymond Segura Can you tell me where I can get the rear bumper for 69 impala?
  • Art Vandelay some of the crazy numbers I get. Percentages look bigger with any fluctuations with low volume makes and brands leaving the market will see massive month over month changes. But what’s with Buick? I still see the occasional ad on TV and yet the drop is disproportionate even compared to all the other GM brands.
  • Master Baiter "There is no mandate for consumers to buy EVs, not in any country or state. That’s made up."Right. And you are not mandated to purchase a toilet that only uses 1.6 gallons/flush. You could choose to not have a toilet--just go in the woods, like the bears do.