It’s been less than a week since American Suzuki decided to close its doors (and dealerships), and we already heard that Mitsubishi doesn’t intend to follow suit. Today, however, we heard just how the Japanese automaker intends to stay relevant to U.S. buyers.
Mitsubishi’s sales have plunged in recent years as old models–Galant, Endeavor, Eclipse–wasted away to nothing. Supplies of the remaining cars–Lancer, Outlander Sport, Outlander, and i-MIEV–are far outstripping sales, to the point where Mitsubishi is tied with Fiat for the marque with the most days-supply on hand (133 days, according to Automotive News Data Center). Sales are hovering around the 4000-unit mark monthly, and its market share now stands at 0.4 percent.
If the damsel-in-distress Mitsubishi has any hope of being saved by a knight in shining armor, it’ll be Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko playing the knight with a few new products playing the part of the shining armor. Masuko was defiant last week, insisting that the U.S. is an important market for Mitsubishi and promising that the company won’t leave our shores in the wake of Suzuki’s demise. Now, the news this week is that Masuko is backing up those claims with actual product.
Automotive News reports that Masuko has greenlit the redesigned Outlander crossover, which is already on sale in Japan, scheduled to go on sale here in July, and follow that debut with a “new” Mirage small car, which we first saw about a year ago in Tokyo. Oddly enough, this is the first time we’ve heard a firm yes about the Mirage minicar, which will compete in the quickly-populating minicar segment with the Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500 when it goes on sale.
While the Mirage will reportedly get an EV version, don’t expect to see it on Mitsubishi lots any time soon–and you can thank the i-MIEV for that. Mitsubishi’s ambitious electrification plans have hit a serious snag with the i-MIEV selling at a very, very slow rate–fewer than 500 units in the first 10 months of this year–so Mitsubishi may scrap that plan in favor of the plug-in hybrid, a happy medium. The first Mitsubishi PHEV will be the Outlander, which goes on sale in January 2014.
If all goes well, 2014 will be a big year for Mitsubishi: Masuko is hoping to boost U.S.-market sales to 100,000 units or more a year, almost double its current rate (sales are down nearly a third, to 50,103, through October). Until the new product onslaught begins, the upward march in the sales will have to be led in the near-term by the recently facelifted Outlander Sport crossover.
Will ambitious plans be enough to rescue Mitsubishi from doom? Let us know what you think.