Mitsubishi had a rough year in the American automotive market, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. After dropping four major vehicles from its lineup (the Eclipse coupe, Eclipse Spyder, Galant sedan, and the Endeavour crossover), Mitsubishi watched its sales in the United States take a nosedive to the tune of 29 percent. The Japanese automaker’s market share all but dried up and is currently at 0.4 percent, down from 0.7 percent in 2011. It currently shares the title with Fiat for the most unsold inventory with a 133-day stock as of October 1. The all-new Mitsubishi i-MiEV all-electric vehicle is widely considered to be a bust as well.
Mitsubishi’s recent struggles stateside come as little surprise for those following the automotive industry closely. However, Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko is working to rebuild the Japanese automaker, and has plans to boost sales by 45 percent in the next fiscal year. If everything goes according to Masuko’s plan, Mitsubishi will move 80,000 units by the middle of next year. That’s up from 55,000 units that were originally projected to sell by March 31 of 2013. Masuko has also appointed a new boss for North America and expects to move 100,000 in just under two years. In order to meet these lofty goals, Masuko and Co. plan on adding two new vehicles into Mitsubishi’s lineup by next year and a third one in 2014. If there was any doubt before this, Masuko made it very clear to Automotive News that Mitsubishi will not follow in the footsteps of fellow Japanese automaker Suzuki and abandon the U.S. automotive market.
“We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the U.S. market,” Masuko told Automotive News. “The U.S. market is a very important market.”
If Masuko and Mitsubishi wish to make a comeback in the U.S., it first needs to restock its desolate portfolio. Currently, Mitsubishi offers the Lancer, Lancer Sportback, Lancer Evolution, Outlander and Outlander Sport, and the trifling i-MiEV. Technically, that’s only three models with a few different configurations; not enough to make a footprint in the North American sales market. That’s why Mitsubishi plans on importing the Mirage compact car from Thailand in September of next year. The next Mirage is expected to also come in a plug-in hybrid form, but the U.S. market isn’t expected to see it. The all-new Outlander will also help boost Mitsu’s sales while a plug-in hybrid version will be available in January of 2014.
Through the first 10 months of 2012, Mitsubishi managed to only move 50,103 vehicles; dismal when compared to other leading automakers but almost impressive when considering that’s only from three vehicles. Upon its introduction into the U.S. market, Mitsu’ planned to move 20,000 i-MiEV units a year. Only 469 units have been sold through the first 10 months of 2012. Since the i-MiEV never really caught on stateside like Mitsubishi expected it to, the Japanese automaker plans to head in another direction with its hybrid technology. Moving forward, Mitsu will begin focusing more on plug-in hybrids, and less on all-electric vehicles.
What say you? Can Mitsubishi save itself? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.