If there’s one automaker that has definitely not been making headlines recently, it’s Mitsubishi Motors. The Japanese car company has lost significant ground and buzz to competitors like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, and has seen its market share dwindle to less than 1% in the U.S.”Mitsubishi is just a small part of the market — less than 0.5%,” Jessica Caldwell, automotive analyst for Edmunds.com told the Chicago Tribune earlier this year. “At one point, Mitsubishi was the fastest-growing Japanese automaker in America. They were at 2% share in 2002 — a fairly significant number.”
The question is, does the company have any plans to reverse the trend? Well, so far the news has been good for 2014. Automotive News reports that not only is Mitsubishi on target to make its first profit in the United States since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but they are also gearing up to unleash a slew of new offerings to American consumers. Two of those may come as early as next year, with a plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV and a Mirage sedan reportedly set for release.
“One of the important efforts inside the company has been turning North America from red ink to black,” says Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko. “Finally we can realize that.”
On top of the two new models above, the company is apparently planning a big push into electric and hybrid vehicles. That could include more plug-in variants of the company’s SUV offerings, including a return for the full-size Montero SUV. The Outlander plug-in could be a great way for the company to return to the market with a vengeance, as electric and hybrid SUVs seem to be picking up steam in the market. Toyota’s RAV4 plug-in is a good example, and would be one of the vehicle’s chief rivals in the States.
These new models could also reinvigorate consumers who have grown weary of the stale offerings currently available to American drivers. The Mirage, for example, has really lost consumer interest, and has taken a beating among reviewers and the press. For example, a review of the 2014 Mirage from Car & Driver had this to say:
If the new Mirage were sent back a quarter century, it probably couldn’t return with a 10Best trophy unless it wrestled one away from the old Mirage and raced back into the time machine. But with 74 horsepower, the new Mirage isn’t racing anywhere.
Rather brutal, yes, but that sentiment seems to be resonating with a lot of drivers who are opting for other choices, like the Nissan Sentra. Another change coming to the lineup will be the discontinuation of one of Mitsubishi’s rather popular and better models, the Lancer Evolution X, which will be dead after the 2015 model year.
“Mitsubishi Motors will explore the possibilities of high-performance models that incorporate electric vehicle technology. Moving forward, the technology honed in the Lancer evolution model will continue to be advanced and proactively incorporated into future models,” Mitsubishi said, according to Jalopnik. While it’s definitely a bummer, it does shine some light into the direction in which the company is headed, and that’s likely more in line with the models and strategies that Nissan and Toyota are employing: Electrified and affordable consumer vehicles.
Mitsubishi is, without a doubt, in the midst of a rebirth. Getting rid of the Lancer Evolution is a bit of a tell, as it does appear that the new emphasis on hybrid and plug-in models is the direction Mitsubishi is heading. The company’s rivals have had rather resounding success in doing so, which justifies the decision. After all, it’s not like Mitsubishi could have really sunk any lower on the American market.