By on April 8, 2021

Last time on Rare Rides we introduced Mitsubishi’s Debonair, which began its tenure as Mitsubishi’s flagship luxury sedan in 1963 and remained the same for a very long time. Upon the model’s second generation in 1986, the Debonair made the switch to front-drive and adopted more modern looks in an attempt to appeal beyond very conservative large sedan buyers in Japan.

But the changes still weren’t enough, as we’ll see today.

In a hint at what was to come, Mitsubishi sold its largest car design to Hyundai, who lightly rebadged the car and sold it in South Korea as the Grandeur. A new flagship name for Hyundai, the Grandeur initially started out with Mitsubishi components which Hyundai swapped out for its own over time. You’d know the Grandeur as the Azera, nee XG350.

The second-generation Debonair was not as successful as the first, and its conservative and Japan-only market forced Mitsubishi to additionally create the Diamante luxury sedan to appeal to a more global audience. A third-generation Debonair debuted for 1992, and was again more successful in the Korean market as the Grandeur than at home. Circa 1999, Mitsubishi noticed that Hyundai was better at selling its large sedan than it was, and entered a joint effort with Hyundai to develop the long-wheelbase Dignity.

Going larger and upmarket, Mitsubishi took aim directly at the Toyota Century and Nissan President with its new Japanese-Korean luxury sedan. The Dignity was introduced simultaneously (and produced domestically) in South Korea as the Hyundai Equus, and enjoyed much sales success there in a run through 2009. Your author lived there at the time, and the Equus was the large domestic sedan of choice for the successful Korean businessman.

But the Japanese market rejected the Dignity (and standard-wheelbase version Proudia) entirely, and Mitsubishi shifted around 1,200 total examples of both variants between 1999 and 2001. Just 59 of those were the flagship Dignity version. Mitsubishi gave up for a while, but tried once more to capture the large sedan market with another Proudia. That one existed from 2012 through 2016 and was a rebadged Infiniti Q70 (Nissan Cima). So far, Mitsubishi hasn’t shot across the bow of the large luxury sedan again, and the Q70 wasn’t especially full-size anyway.

Next time we’ll get to the reason all these articles were generated: The time AMG got involved to boost the second generation Debonair’s driving excitement.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

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16 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Sporty and Very Rare 1991 Mitsubishi Debonair, by AMG (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Wow…a Japanese K-car!!! Complete with the wire hubcaps. If there’s puffy velour seats, I officially want one. The third picture – there’s a LOT of Infiniti Q45 and Lexus LS400 cribbing in that design.
    Mitsubishi wasn’t a dead brand crawling at this point – they had hits like the Galant, Montero/Pajero, and the 3000GT, but these sedans looked phoned in. And outside of South Korea, Hyundai wasn’t setting the world on fire with large executive sedans. Mitsubishi probably should have picked a stronger partner. And the Diamante was a really nice car, especially for the early 1990s. It was just small for the class.

    • 0 avatar

      Hyundai might’ve been the only brand willing to collaborate with them. Daewoo was GM, and Kia was tied to Mazda (see the Kia Enterprise). Ssangyong had old Mercedes parts for its luxury car (Chairman). Mitsubishi also sold them things like the gen 2 Montero, which they sold as the Galloper and later Terracan.

      The nice thing about Hyundai’s cars at the time was they were the best Korea had to offer, and had the entire nation’s car market essentially on lockdown. You didn’t buy a foreign car there, too unseemly.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Good point, and your post just reminded me of the Mitsubishi Precis (sp?) – the rebadged Excel. I have friends from South Korea (one born in Seoul and another in the south of the country) who have said the same thing. Up until the 1988 Olympics and the drastic changes that took place there afterwards with the changes in government and trade, it really was a Korea-first, Korea-only market.
        It took a bit of travel on this end before I saw my first Ssangyong! I had to do a doubletake to make sure I was seeing the brand name correctly.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Mitsubishi was my favorite Japanese car maker back in the 80-90’s. They had the wildest tech with some decent styling. They also sold or licensed technology to a lot of emerging market car companies like Hyundai, Proton and others. They had many dance partners.

      I think their troubles were self-inflicted and they’ve paid the price for it. It goes to prove that boneheaded mistakes are not only the provenance of US car companies. Now that they’ve been merged with Nissan-Renault, we’ll see how it plays out. I still expect to see them disappear, but I think a winnowing is long overdue for the Japanese market and others will disappear, also.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Makes me chuckle when I see these Mitsubishi models -so elegant and Proudia- then think of the garbage they were serving up Stateside in a few short years.

    • 0 avatar

      The original Proudia might’ve found some market here, perhaps. I think they and the Equus look great.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Mitsubishi could have allied with Daimler Chrysler and sold them as Imperials in the late 90s/early 00s. Would have been a great contrast between the 300M which they tried to sell as a sport sedan. Proudia/Imperial, 300M, and drop the Concorde/LHS – could have worked.

        Edit: …or Proudia in the mid 10s, they ended up dropping 300 (LX) anyway why not sell some Mitsu rebadges? Same contrast between it and the Dodge Charger.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    We really need some pictures of ruched velour seats here.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Ask and ye shall receive…

      And at today’s exchange rate, it just over $8800, if it’s still available.

      https://www.goo-net-exchange.com/usedcars/MITSUBISHI/DEBONAIR_V/700040364230180528002/index.html

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I think the door handles on the second-gen came from my Dodge Intrepid.
    Also, “Proudia” has to be the worst car name ever. Makes “Aspire” seem upscale.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    To be authentic “American Style” the car really needs some gun ports.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    Imagine calling the cops to report that thieves have stolen your Dignity.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    As a fan of the Chrysler K-car limousines, that American-Style Debonair checks all of the late malaise era boxes for me. How cool would it be to have a garage with both of those cars?

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