By on January 25, 2021

Mitsubishi has an important product debut coming up: the all-new 2022 Outlander three-row crossover. In what will be the fourth-generation Outlander since 2001, the 2022 model ditches Mitsubishi’s ancient GS platform the Outlander has used since 2007 and sees a migration over to the same platform as the Nissan Rogue.

I think this is the beginning of the end for Mitsubishi in North America.

Mitsubishi has seen sales growth here since circa 2013 after the company’s product line was slimmed considerably between 2004 and 2009. With new Nissan blood, the plan is to make Mitsubishi more exciting. The first and most important step is releasing a new version of the “iconic” (their words) model, which will define their new direction. As it stands, the company’s lineup is a bit… short. Take a look:

Mirage
Mirage G4 (sedan)
Outlander Sport
Eclipse Cross
Outlander

The two Mirages are the same car, and the other three crossovers are all on the GS platform. Once Outlander Sport makes the jump to Nissan architecture, it’s reasonable to believe the others will switch over in short order.

Now based on the teaser image above, and this image of the 2021 Rogue, I’m thinking the all-new Outlander Sport is a clip swap away from the extant 2021 Rogue. Nissan gets a year jump on the sales since it’s the bigger brand donating the platform, and the boss of the operation.

But is there space in the crowded North American market for a relatively niche discount brand with a limited following to sell reworked or rebadged versions of Nissan product? Bearing in mind the monetary situation of both Nissan and Mitsubishi, the overlap seems fairly troublesome. Nissan covers North America with over 1,000 dealers, Mitsubishi has 440. Picture it: A couple years down the road and both brand’s offerings are, in theory, the same underneath. Why pay for two dealership chains to sell and service the same product? Consumers will know their Outlander is a Rogue Sport (or whatever), wearing a worse badge. We’re back to Ford/Mercury and Dodge/Plymouth times in this situation. Would you like the Spirit, or an Acclaim?

I just don’t see it working out domestically in the long-term. The reasonable expectation here is that Mitsubishi fades away and is absorbed into Nissan after its limited crossover offering is filled with four-cylinders and CVTs. The brand might continue its cars elsewhere globally, where it’s more dominant than Nissan in select markets.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but with the new Outlander’s introduction, I think Mitsubishi’s days in North America are numbered. Off to you.

[Images: Mitsubishi, Nissan]

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37 Comments on “Opinion: It’s a Bleak Future for Mitsubishi Cars in North America...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Galant VR-4
    3000GT
    Evolution
    Montero/Pajero
    Eclipse GSX

    My aunt had a Galant VR-4 and when I got my license, I got to drive that beast. Now I look at what Mitsubishi has become. It’s time for them to pull the plug on them in North America and maybe regroup and come back with something competitive that people want, not what people have to settle on.

  • avatar
    ADent

    Mitsubishi deathwatch!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      They have been dying for so long I forgot they were actually still around.

      I actually saw a Lancer Wagon over the weekend… talk about a rare car – they were only sold in the US for one model year!

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I have a soft spot for the Lancer Sportback. It was a neat hot hatchback with awd and a dual clutch automatic.

        • 0 avatar

          I think there were several years of Sportback, they just sold very few!

          • 0 avatar
            threeer

            They sold the Sportback Ralliart model for only one year (2004). I owned one. Bought it used and absolutely loved it…other than it being an automatic. I had numerous comments on it.,from those who thought it was a Volvo (thanks to the rear tail light styling) to those who thought it was a true Ralliart under the hood. Loved the seats, the slightly aggressive style and the subdued rasp of the exhaust.

            Today’s Mitsubishi? Eh…

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    I think Mitsubishi is dead. 2 ugly ass, shitty cars, and 3 SUVs – 2 of which compete against each other and are only slightly different from each other.

    If they had something more redeeming they may stand a chance. IF they had modern versions of the VR-4, 3000 GT, Evo, SOMETHING – possibly. Their Engines and transmissions are archaic, even the Outlander hybrid isn’t even that exciting.

    Put them out of their misery like Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, GEO

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I agree that Mitsu’s direction and brand image are both, shall we say, murky. But if they were dying, why would they go to the trouble of introducing this new model?

    I actually see the platform sharing with Nissan as a positive – they can introduce fresher product without spending as much. These guys would do well to make their next model a spinoff of the Versa, which by all accounts is actually a pretty legit little car (certainly better than the Mirage).

    And do we really think Mitsu buyers are going really going to get exercised about the platform origin of their new cars as long as they can get bought with a 570 FICO?

    • 0 avatar

      My point with the origin of the cars being an issue is more to do with them being the same car than the Mitsu buyer caring. Yes Mitsu will have fresh product, but if it’s a badge job on a Nissan, what’s really the point?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed.

      I’ll offer a similar opinion, contrary to the article:

      Mitsubishi has been the comeback kid from 2012-19, but did take a bad sales hit last year. My theory is that 2020 badly damaged the bottom end of the economy, but not the top end. Hence, we have $60k F-150s and Teslas selling like crazy, but Mitsubishi and Fiat take it on the chin.

      Fiat is a lost cause.

      Even if Mitsubishi utilizes Nissan running gear, they’ll still offer distinction in style, options, and pricing. They won’t occupy the Armada space, for instance. But maybe they could offer a low-end pickup akin to the old D-50, and maybe they could remain the sole keeper of the PHEV tech that Nissan does not sell.

      Hyundai and Kia have carefully segmented their portfolios to have little overlap, despite having similar content in some areas. Bodies, interiors, and infotainmet are all unique to each brand, and some vehicles have no cousin in the other brand. Nissan and Mitsubishi would do well to use such an approach.

      A Versa-like vehicle with better styling could do well among the entry-level crowd. Economies of scale with Nissan could improve margins on such low-end cars.

      Instead of going head-to head against the large brands, Mitsubishi has succeeded lately by “hitting ’em where they ain’t”. If they continue with this strategy, they could survive and even thrive.

      They still managed to sell 87k vehicles in 2020, which is more than viable for a standalone brand.

      • 0 avatar

        They tried to position FIAT as a high margin Italian MINI like brand. Big fail. But if they bring over the Tipo, Panda and Toro. Stack ’em deep and sell ’em cheap. That might work yet.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          No one’s buying Fiats, and I don’t think anyone will buy any of the models you mention, either. Why should they when they can buy an Accent or Versa that isn’t saddled with Fiat’s reliability history?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Along with the Chevy Spark, Mitsubishi has a stranglehold on the market for $19.99/day rental cars. Too bad nobody is traveling.

  • avatar
    Mackey

    Go big or go home. If you’re going to borrow a platform from Nissan, make it the Patrol platform and build a modern day, if more substantial Montero with quality off roading chops and luxury bits.

    Or if not body on frame, build it on the Pathfinder platform.

    I’m sure a return of the Montero on one of their own platforms is the last thing Nissan/Infiniti would want, but THAT would get people in the door of their showrooms right now, with healthy margins.

    We’ll jump at anything with a retro badge and rugged styling.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Offer a compact or midsize pickup that could be based on the Frontier but decontent it to where it comes in at 20k. Mitsubishi could even take the current Frontier which will be redesigned to save on tooling. Offer a manual and an I4 in extended cab and crew cab. Mitsubishi could revive the Mighty Max name since it had a more positive reputation than the Raider. Making the exact same vehicles as Nissan and pricing them the same as a Nissan will not work there needs to be a value.

    • 0 avatar
      hondaaustin

      Came to the comments to suggest this… find a place to put the old tooling and build the old Frontier. (You could even put the old engine in it.) Change the badge only, charge less, revive a brand. Also, with so many manufacturers leaving the midsize sedan segment… bring back the Galant! It doesn’t have to be great if it’s one of only 6 options for a mainstream midsize sedan.

  • avatar

    Mitsu still will have more models to sell than iconic FIAT, Chrysler and Dodge brands.

    On the other hand – does that mean that Nissan becomes Nippon Leyland?

  • avatar
    msquare

    Combine the two dealer networks under one brand.

    Call it Rambler.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Yes the plan is to let Mitsubishi fade away in the US. Once they came into the alliance they divvied up the world with the plan on focusing on only of the 3 brands in most markets. The problem in the US is the franchise laws in many states would make it expensive to terminate many of the dealers. So dealers starving is the strategic plan.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Mitsubishi already announced they’re concentrating on secondary markets about three months ago. Suzuki does well doing exactly that. So not much thinking involved about the ultimate withdrawal of Mitsu from both Europe and North America. They have already informed us this will be the case.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    How appropriate since America now has a bleak future which started on January 20. Just wait as all out prosperity slowly but surely goes down the drain.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I believed the same rhetoric, back in 1992.

      One measure of prosperity is the DJIA:

      1993-2001 (Clinton): +16% APR
      2001-2009 (Bush): -2.6% APR
      2009-2017 (Obama): +12% APR
      2017-2021 (Trump): +12% APR

      I’m no longer convinced that the party of the incumbent President or Congress has much bearing on prosperity. Many other factors are at work, including individual choices.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    Regardless of the product, styling, quality of product….anything they or Nissan offers, if it has a CVT it’s a no-go. I made that mistake once around 2010, purchasing a CVT transmission vehicle. Fortunately, by the time it was grenading I was able to trade it in on something else.

    The dealer was in a hurry that afternoon so just looked at the car (which lived in a garage so at 120k miles it still looked brand new), they looked at the car (never turned it on or checked the mechanicals) and offered me a trade in value that was roughly twice what it was actually worse. Did I feel bad about the excellent trade in? No. Dealers work to screw there customers so it was nice to have karma go the other way.

    ANYWAY, CVT based offerings? Nope, don’t care who the brand is.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Mitsubishi should offer the Mirage with manual steering. It has a USP of being the only sub-2000# car on the market, and one of only two sub-2500# cars (Miata). Play to its strengths!

    They also need to get journalists to drive the manual Mirage. 78 horsepower doesn’t work with an automatic. This is a 1980s car that they’ve engineered to meet 2020 safety and emissions standards. Play to its strengths!

    They could also do an Eclipse – a chopped Mirage with an Eclipse Cross engine. It’ll fit – I’ve done the measurements at a Mitsu dealer. 148 horsepower in a 1900 lb car is unique. Play to its strengths!

  • avatar
    jfk-usaf

    Why not pull slight deviation on what Chrysler did with Dodge and eventually Ram. Use Nissan for your cars and SUVs, butch up the Mitsubishi brand and use it for trucks and more rugged versions of your SUVs. Mits is dead on its own… None of its products are compelling. They’re just cheap. Under the current strategy I see an eventual failure just like the author said.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Back in 2014 I looked into buying a Lancer Ralliart sedan. After some discussion on the Lancer forum the conclusion was that I would be happier with a V8 pony car. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to owning a Mitsubishi.

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