As I scanned my social media feeds final week, I seen a good quantity of journalists posting that they have been headed to the Tokyo Motor Present on Mitsubishi’s dime. Whereas automaker-funded junkets to a global auto present aren’t unusual – I’ve been on such journeys myself – the truth that it was Mitsubishi footing the invoice for worldwide airfare and lodges in one of many world’s most costly cities raised my eyebrows.
Don’t fear, this isn’t a screed about journalistic ethics and press junkets. I solely point out it as a result of automakers don’t spend that sort of cash on media with no function. They’ve one thing in thoughts that they need coated, and whereas they gained’t try and dictate that the journalists report solely glowingly about what they’re doing (at the least I hope not), they are going to count on protection, even when it’s impartial or unfavourable, from these they flew on the market. All publicity being good publicity, that kind of factor.
Normally when an OEM spends that sort of cash to fly 30-40 media out, they’ve a serious product unveil in thoughts. One thing that fans and/or model loyalists are enthusiastic about. Once more, the cash is spent with a function.
So it was pure for me to hope that the struggling model is likely to be asserting one thing superior. A contemporary Eclipse. A 3000GT successor. A brand new Evo to battle the WRX/Civic Sort R/Golf R/Focus RS.
However what Mitsubishi did as a substitute is discuss rebranding. And never for the primary time.
Positive, the corporate talked about future product, and I’ll get to that in a bit. Nevertheless it’s getting irritating to listen to a whole lot of speak and never a lot motion.
Mitsubishi cannot get by on two middle-of-the-road crossovers and an affordable compact automotive solely*. Nor can it proceed to attempt to tout its management in inexperienced tech (a declare partially based mostly on its gimmicky i-MiEV electrical automotive and the accessible of a PHEV Outlander, and partially based mostly on a bevy of PHEV and electrical ideas). It additionally misplaced a few of its rally cred, which solely issues to a small subset of patrons anyway, when it killed off the Evo. In fact, the Evo was dying a gradual loss of life anyway, for the reason that firm did a fantastic job with its efficiency however ignored that even fans care about good interiors and comfort options.
*Sure, I’m conscious the model’s mannequin combine is far bigger outdoors of the U.S. That features Canada, which nonetheless provides the Lancer. This put up is about Mitsubishi and the American market, as a result of that’s the place the model actually wants to enhance. (Although most of my factors may also apply to the Canadian market, as nicely.)
Being a part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance may have benefits for the model, if it may possibly determine tips on how to greatest leverage its place in CEO Carlos Ghosn’s plan for 2022. That plan contains 4 frequent platforms, extra frequent powertrains accessible throughout platforms, extra electrification, extra connectivity, extra autonomous tech, 12 EVs that can share platforms and elements, 40 automobiles with some stage of autonomy, and the operation of a ride-sharing service that makes use of autonomous vehicles.
The place precisely Mitsu matches in to all that’s laborious to say, however I’m already involved. The most important product information to this point includes the upcoming Eclipse Cross crossover and the e-Evolution all-electric SUV idea.
Proper off the bat, I’m aggravated that two of the model’s strongest mannequin names have been moved to several types of product, thus diluting no matter that means they’d. However extra importantly, whereas each crossovers and EVs are little question going to gobble up ever-increasing shares of the market within the close to future, the online ought to nonetheless be solid wider.
In different phrases, I don’t fault Mitsu for launching a compact crossover as step one in an total bigger re-brand. Crossovers are scorching. I do take problem with the identify (not solely does it steal Eclipse nevertheless it additionally sounds foolish), however on condition that the crossover market is nuts, it is smart.
What the model actually must do is construct high quality product, value it proper, and keep present with traits and tech. That’s kind of why it’s on this mess – a protracted try and promote value-priced vehicles which might be both behind the occasions and/or decontented in comparison with the competitors made it right into a model that’s solely actually interesting to essentially the most price-conscious shoppers.
Add in a latest fuel-economy controversy and a scarcity of total product, and you’ve got a recipe for hassle.
Yet one more step that will assist the corporate get out of hassle: save revered nameplates for re-born variations of stated vehicles. If you wish to use the Eclipse identify, it had higher be on a enjoyable, inexpensive two-door sports activities automotive, for instance.
Look, it’s straightforward for me to play unpaid keyboard guide. Nevertheless it doesn’t look like it could be that onerous for the corporate to make the Mirage extra livable with no vital value improve (the Mirage G4 is a begin, albeit a small step in the fitting path). Nor does it appear laborious to think about an Outlander that competes on extra than simply value, a stable compact crossover, a reborn Lancer with Evo companion, and possibly a seven-seat crossover that’s bigger than the Outlander (which might additionally seat seven, in fact). One thing within the Chevy Traverse measurement vary.
If we’re actually dreaming, we’d like one other Eclipse coupe, 3000GT sports activities automotive, and Nissan Frontier-based truck. And sure, hybrid/PHEV fashions would have to be accessible the place acceptable. An EV that may truly be each day pushed would assist, too.
The product must be high quality constructed and priced/optioned appropriately, which is not any straightforward activity, however definitely doable. Mitsubishi isn’t the place it’s simply due to its fuel-economy scandal or makes an attempt to chase value-sensitive patrons, however as a result of it uncared for each high quality and content material for thus lengthy. The chase after worth is a part of the issue in each of those areas, however different makes have proven tips on how to construct good vehicles at inexpensive costs. Hyundai’s not good, nevertheless it may present a template, for instance.
Mitsubishi can fly journalists in all places and convene executives for grand speeches and one-on-one interviews, however advertising and marketing muscle and PR solely goes to this point. If there’s no product, or the product is so unhealthy that solely essentially the most price-conscious consumers set foot within the showrooms, this re-brand is doomed to fail.
A very good speech is nice, an excellent (and even simply good) product combine is healthier. The excellent news is Mitsubishi has extra possibilities to show that it’s engaged on the later, because the American swing of the worldwide auto present circuit begins quickly. Hopefully, in some unspecified time in the future between now and subsequent spring, there might be a clearer image of the model’s roadmap, and it’ll embody extra than simply electrical SUV ideas.
In any other case, we’ll be working a Mitsubishi deathwatch right here at TTAC.