It might sound like a response to a question no one was asking, but Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko says he's not even thinking about leaving the U.S. market. Mitsubishi, like many other carmakers, has struggle over the past decade, but Masuko says the U.S. will remain at the core of Mitsubishi's plan for the foreseeable future.
Mitsubishi's U.S. sales have declined steadily since 2002, now sitting at roughly on seventh their peak of over 354,000 vehicles. Part of the problem is a lackluster lineup headlined by a car that many want but few can afford: the Lancer Evolution, our favorite car in the lineup. Outside of the Lancer range, Mitsubishi's offerings, including the Eclipse, look and feel dated.
An all-new Outlander Sport may put a fresh face on things for the company, but as of right now, Mitsubishi is offering only five different models: Outlander, Endeavor, Eclipse, Lancer, and Galant. Each model has its variants, including the convertible Eclipse Spyder and three versions of the Lancer, but it's still a rather tiny lineup to be targeting 200,000-plus sales in the U.S.
The Outlander Sport, itself another crossover, could hit a sweeter spot in terms of sales volume, as its smallish size, efficient 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and relatively low pricing are likely to appeal to younger buyers. Available all-wheel drive and premium upgrade packages could also push it in front of the mid-range crowd looking for a smaller alternative to U.S. brands.
Mitsubishi isn't planning to turn its luck around overnight, however. Instead, a slow-growth process will hopefully put sales back over the 200,000 mark several years down the road, according to Masuko. That would require quadrupling the current near-50,000 cars sold annually, making it a lofty goal indeed simply to return to half its former high-water mark. The company will reveal a new business plan in the fourth quarter.
[Automotive News -- sub. req.]