Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mitsubishi is on the Ropes in America

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Back in the day I owned a couple of Mitsubishi vehicles. One was a Mighty Max pickup truck. It was an extremely cheap vehicle, and I'm not talking about just the price. The good thing about the truck was I had no misgivings about throwing whatever kind of crap in the bed because nothing could have made that truck look worse.

The second Mitsubishi I owned was an old Montero. Even though it was pretty Spartan inside, that truck was fun to drive and was great at off-roading. I still kick myself for selling it, but I had my reasons when I did.

Just as I have mixed emotions about my two Mitsubishi vehicles, I have mixed emotions about the company. Some of the products are amazing and exciting, like the Evolution or the Pajero (it was called the Montero here, and yes it's still very much available in other parts of the world). But Mitsubishi lately has been producing some pretty crappy vehicles. The quality isn't bad, despite the overall impression Americans have of the brand's quality, but the vehicles are just so odd I don't know what to make of them. For example the Outlander is a vehicle I just can't quite categorize, and not in a good way. I know some of the most revolutionary vehicles have been hard to categorize at first, but Mitsubishi lately hasn't been putting out revolutionary vehicles.

This is the kind of fun you have in a Mitsubishi Evolution
I read an article on Jalopnik the other day where they very briefly touched on the whole Mitsubishi mess. According to them, Mitsubishi is considering several new vehicles to amp things up in the Americas as well. One of those possible vehicles is a full-size SUV, which Jalopnik of course hates the sound of (Jalopnik very much has a bias against family vehicles for reasons I can only guess at). Personally, I think a full-size SUV would be a smart move. Other Japanese automakers have moved into that space with some good success, so why not Mitsubishi? There's a huge market for them (and I'm in that market). Larger vehicles provide larger profit margins for automakers, particularly full-size SUVs and trucks, and right now Mitsubishi needs more cash in a bad way. Just look at how Porsche has done by producing a mid-size SUV, the Cayenne, which now makes up half of the company's sales in the United States! Like I've said before, if producing less exhilarating but more practical vehicles keeps an automaker in business so it can keep making those exhilarating vehicles, then it's a good thing. Not everyone can afford nor wants to drive a hepped-up, turbocharged rallycross vehicle to work each day and if automotive enthusiasts can't understand that, then they're out of touch with reality.

Of course I'm also excited that Mitsubishi is saying it wants to also produce a replacement for the Evolution. My mind could go crazy thinking about what the company could churn out as a replacement (likely a hybrid high-performance vehicle, given the racing tech we've seen from Mitsubishi lately). But it doesn't matter if the company can't stay profitable. Large SUVs are profitable, as long as Mitsubishi plays its cards right.