Mitsubishi seemed like it was on the verge of closing up its US shop just a few short years ago- but the brand is experiencing something of a renaissance of late, thanks to excellent new products like the forward-looking MiEV electric car, the fun-to-drive Mirage CVT (which happens to be the highest MPG car you can buy that’s not a hybrid), and the award-winning Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid. What’s next for the once-struggling brand?
“When I took office in 2005,” explains Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko, “I don’t think there were many people who had confidence that a turnaround would come … We are finally starting to see the fruits of the seeds we have planted. We’re delivering a profit. This year, we laid the foundation for paying a dividend next year.”
Those profits and dividends are going to go precisely where they’re needed: towards new product. One of those products, considered key to Mitsubishi’s recovery in the US, is a new full-size 2015 Mitsubishi Montero SUV based on the Pajero Hybrid concept shown at this year’s Tokyo Auto Show. Throughout Masuko’s interview with Automotive News, however, the Mitsubishi boss talks about the next phase of Mitsubishi’s turnaround plans. The meaty stuff for Gas 2 fans and green gearheads, though, is the commitment to more EVs, PHEVs, and hybrids coming from the brand as Mitsubishi strengthens its ties with Renault and Nissan. “With Nissan and Renault,” he says, “we’re considering producing an all-electric minicar. We want to bring together our experts to bring down battery costs. And as an extension of that, we may consider an EV application in a car bigger than a minicar … regarding the next generation (MiEV), we’re not sure if it would be the same size. It might be better to have a vehicle a little larger.”
Could that mean that a Mitsubishi-badged version of the next Smart car/Renault Twingo might be coming to the US? The current Smart uses a Mitsubishi-sourced drivetrain, and the 4-door Twingo badged as a Mitsu wouldn’t directly compete with Mercedes’ Smart brand. What do you think?