In an unlikely alliance, Japanese automaker Mitsubishi will join forces with Renault-Nissan to introduce two new Mitsubishi-branded sedan models, one of which will be sold in the United States and Canada. Primed to enter the mid-size segment against competitors like the Chevrolet Malibu, Mitsubishi’s new mid-size will be built on a Renault-based platform, although no announcement has been made specifying any additional details.
The second model, for which no manufacturing location has been determined, will compete globally in the compact segment.
Currently, Mitsubishi’s only U.S. passenger cars are the Mitsubishi Lancer compact and the Mirage subcompact. Mitsubishi has not offered a mid-size U.S. vehicle since the Galant met its end after the 2011 model year.
Mitsubishi plans to manufacture its North American-bound mid-size at the Renault-Samsung plant in Busan, South Korea. Other vehicles produced at the Busan plant include the mid-size SM5, which is badged as the Renault Latitude in other markets, as well as the top-of-the-line SM7, which is rebadged as the Renault Talisman. Nissan has already resolved to move some production of the Nissan Rogue to the Busan plant by the third quarter of 2014 — an effort to keep the plant afloat in the face of struggling Renault-Samsung sales.
Mitsubishi and Nissan have worked together in the past, notably on a joint minicar project called NMKV, which launched this year in Japan with the Nissan Dayz and Mitsubishi eK wagon. Mitsubishi manufactures both vehicles at their Mizushima plant in Japan.
“Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have jointly benefited from several collaborations in the past, most recently the successful joint-venture on Kei cars in Japan,” said Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn in a statement. “I welcome the direction being taken towards this broader cooperation, creating new opportunities for Renault in addition to further leveraging the productive relationship between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors."
The joint statement from Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi also outlines plans to extend the NMKV project in order to co-develop a new global-market small car that will also include an electric version. While Nissan has had a relative degree of success with the Nissan Leaf in the U.S. market, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric hatchback has completely floundered since its late 2011 U.S. launch.
“As a result of the development of collaborative projects with Nissan Motor up to now, Mitsubishi Motors is pleased to work again with Nissan and now Renault towards achieving further collaborations,” said Osamu Masuko, Mitsubishi Motors President. “The new opportunities could be described as evidence that the ongoing collaborative projects between Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan have brought positive results, and Mitsubishi Motors hopes that any new collaborative projects with the Renault-Nissan Alliance would bring us further merits."
Mitsubishi has had quite a tough time in the U.S. in the last few years, and the Japanese automaker appears to be willing to make unexpected alliances in order to regain some market share. With that being said, October’s sales of 4,972 represented a 19.4 percent increase year-over-year. It is not a major accomplishment to sell less than 5000 cars in a month though, and Mitsubishi could potentially benefit from this out-of-left-field partnership down the road.