Report: Mitsubishi Planning Dealer Expansion, More Models for U.S.

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Mitsubishi has said it plans to revive the brand in the United States. The stated strategy involves expanding its lineup and retail locations. While this is probably very exciting to those who recall driving any model equipped with the 4G63 engine, it might be wise to temper expectations. The changes being floated are relatively modest, with this being the first step in what could eventually become something bigger for the brand.

That said, the company appears to be serious about setting things right inside America and may actually be in a unique position to pull this off.

With new vehicle prices having surpassed parody, any automaker building affordable vehicles may soon find themselves getting a lot of attention from customers who just want something that will work for under $40,000 and that’s basically all Mitsubishi sells.

A few years ago, your author speculated that Toyota would probably be having a good run as there was mounting evidence that Americans couldn’t really afford new automobiles. Reliability, practicality, and affordability will always win the day when money is tight and the manufacturer’s surging sales seem to reflect this. But Toyota is now having trouble keeping prices down and recently made some changes to its lineup and production that has made some fans worried about the longevity of certain models.

According to a report from Automotive News, Mitsubishi doesn’t want to squander what looks to be a window of opportunity. And, with a market share of just 0.6 percent, the brand doesn’t have much to lose.

Last week, retailers were reportedly informed that the company intends to expand its North American lineup, nearly doubling its product offerings by 2030. Mitsubishi likewise wants to broaden the reach of its dealer network and is presently considering alternative retail concepts in addition to more traditional expansion plans. This includes creating small satellite storefronts, managed by existing dealerships, in regions Mitsubishi feels aren’t being adequately reached.

From Automotive News:

Mitsubishi Motors North America CEO Mark Chaffin said the brand's 330 dealerships cover a mere third of the U.S. sales market. The automaker aims to bump that to more than 50 percent by the decade's end.
The dealer network size "limits our ability to go to the next level in share and sales volume," Chaffin said. "Increasing the number of stores will increase access to our products."
Consumer interest in the redesigned Outlander crossover and its electrified variant was a revelation for Mitsubishi's U.S. executives.
"I've received letters from consumers saying they saw the car on the road, saw our ads and liked the vehicle," Chaffin said. "But they have no dealer nearby to make that purchase."
Chaffin declined to disclose the number of new stores planned or the geographic markets targeted, but said Mitsubishi does not intend to "step on the toes of existing dealers."

As a younger man, I was absolutely obsessed with Mitsubishi due to the fact that the company was dedicated toward building high-value automobiles with most models having some kind of performance variant available. The brand was fielding sporting automobiles loaded with character that one could still utilize as a family vehicle and wouldn’t break the bank. While Toyota and Honda were typically offering more reliable products, Mitsubishi was still offering competitive options and much hotter deals.

But the company abandoned its performance-focused ethos because its zaibatsu management structure didn’t see it as sufficiently profitable. By the late 1990s, practically every Japanese brand was building excellent sports cars and the American automakers were likewise starting to get back into their groove. It was getting harder for Mitsubishi to compete after its joint venture with Chrysler ended and its niche in the market was beginning to vanish.

Record sales in 2002 resulted in Mitsubishi Motors doubling down on its decision to pivot further toward economy cars and SUVs. However, this also nuked the brand's identity and U.S. volumes cratered immediately after that. Mitsubishi’s automotive arm now does the brunt of its business in Thailand and Indonesia — where it sells loads of small SUVs, a couple of economy sedans, and the Triton pickup.

While nobody is willing to say which models the United States might be getting, retailers did tell Automotive News that Mitsubishi planned to deliver “an entry-priced plug-in hybrid crossover and a sporty passenger van this decade.”

The latter of the two appeals heavily to your author (who once modified a Plymouth Voyager to be as fast as its brittle transmission would allow) and perhaps six or seven other deranged people currently living in America. Plug-in hybrids also haven’t been the most popular vehicle type, trailing both pure-electric models and standard hybrids.

But Mitsubishi may be thinking long term, as there are few vehicles more versatile or practical than the humble minivan. In fact, the massive decline in demand we’ve seen for the body style seems to have stabilized. While they haven’t gotten any more popular, market analysts expect minivans to see modest growth in the years ahead — spurred primarily by more American families needing a single do-it-all vehicle.

The last item alleged to come our way is an all-electric model developed in tandem with Nissan that we've covered before. Considering the regulatory situation, this probably has to happen. But EVs haven’t been getting much love in 2024, putting their future prospects into question.

It’s not exactly the performance renaissance some of us were hoping for. However, it does address some of the brand’s shortcomings inside the United States. It may also set the brand up for more exciting products if it succeeds.

Regardless, it’d be nice to know how consumers feel about all this, as we've been down this road before. Is Mitsubishi plotting the correct course of action or should it be trying to fill different gaps in the North American market? Truly affordable sporting vehicles seem to be evaporating. But Mitsubishi already appears to have handed that dwindling corner of the market over to Korean automakers. Meanwhile, there’s already a surplus of crossovers and SUVs with Mitsubishi's main advantage being below average MSRPs.

[Images: Mitsubishi]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
4 of 34 comments
  • JMII JMII on May 24, 2024

    I see lots of ads for their CUVs but given the competition in this segment why would I buy an Outlander over a similar product from Toyota, Honda or Hyundai? Mitsubishi needs to offer something compelling, some hook or defining difference. I don't think I've encountered a single person who says "wow have you seen the new [blank] from Mitsubishi? I need to get me one of those".

    I owned a Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T back in '96 and it was fun car. Mitsubishi once made interesting choices with a rally heritage - those cars were fast and pretty high tech at the time. Like Nissan they kind of fell into the we will finance anyone pool so other then an Evo as a track toy anyone I knew steered clear of them.

    • Canam23 Canam23 on May 24, 2024

      Their best card is their PHEV technology which has been around for 14 years and is among the most reliable. Put this in their small pick-up and you have a Maverick competitor, actually, Maverick doesn't offer a PHEV yet.

  • Dartdude Dartdude on May 25, 2024

    Mitsubishi's problem is that the designs are ugly and weird. Using Nissan's platforms isn't going to help. Build a new Montero and a pickup. Ditch Nissan's CVT use a six speed auto. Make sedans and minivans.

    • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on May 25, 2024

      There's something about Nissan's implementation of the Jatco CVT's. Mitsu is using Jatco trannys (a Nissan controlled company) and yet do not have the tranny failure issues Nissan does. The reason, Nissan is trying to put too much torque and horsepowers through a given CVT compared to Mitsu. Use Versa and Mirage as an example, Versa uses the Jatco JF020E and Mirage uses the Jatco JF015E, there are the same base transmission with different ratio coverage (7.3 for the Versa and 8.7 for the Mirage), this tranny is also used in the Juke as well. Yet in Mirage it's regarded as bullet proof and in Versa and Juke and problematic. Nissan is putting more vehicle weight, torque and horsepowers through the same CVT and suffering for it. The same applies across the Mitsu line compared to the Nissan line, Nissan tries to put more stress on the drive train than does Mitsu.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.