Mitsubishi could be one of the next manufacturers to target the booming U.S. pickup market, according to the company’s North American chief operating officer.
With truck sales, in general, booming, and pickups, in particular, generating a disproportionate share of industry earnings in the region, an assortment of manufacturers have either gotten back into the game or are looking for ways to join established brands like Chevrolet, Ford, Ram and Toyota.
The Japanese automaker would “have to have one that’s the right fit for Mitsubishi, for our demographic, and something that’s really competitive in the market,” Mitsubishi North America COO Mark Chaffin told trade publication Ward’s.
His brief comment was part of a much broader interview, MNA spokesman Jeremy Barnes told TheDetroitBureau.com, but he echoed Chaffin in suggesting that with “the right vehicle, indeed, we would have interest.”
(Tarok Concept hints at VW’s return to U.S. pickup market. Click Here for the story.)
Like a broad array of brands, Mitsubishi had been a player in the pickup market in decades past, both with models imported from Japan and, most recently, a rebadged version of the Dodge Dakota that was sold in the U.S. for four years, ultimately being dropped due to poor sales in 2009.
The long-troubled Japanese automaker wouldn’t necessarily have to start from scratch. It currently sells a vehicle in 150 global markets that goes by a variety of different names, including Triton, L200 and Strada.
To bring it to the U.S. market would require some extensive updating – much as Ford faced when it decided to bring the global version of its midsize Ranger to the U.S. for the 2019 model-year. That would likely take a few years, at the least, and possibly require waiting until an all-new version of the Mitsubishi truck was readied. Chaffin didn’t offer any details but LMC Automotive is anticipating the Japanese automaker wouldn’t be ready until 2025.
As for size, the Triton is roughly the size of a global Nissan Frontier, which would actually put it in the compact category if it retained its current dimensions in U.S. trim.
In its new role as part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Mitsu will be overseeing development of the group’s next midsize body-on-frame platform. That would be shared with a number of other vehicles, such as the Renault Alaskan and the Nissan Navara which is also sold in some markets as the global version of the Frontier. Nissan is working up a new version of the U.S. Frontier but has not indicated whether it might want to also offer a smaller truck in the States.
Compact trucks generated sizable sales back in the 1970s and into the 1980s, providing an affordable alternative to a used car for Baby Boomers on a budget. But increasingly stringent mileage, emissions and crash standards – as well as consumer demand for more well-equipped vehicles – eventually killed off the compact segment and, by the early part of this decade, threatened the viability of the midsize pickup market, as well.
But, after initially dropping out, Chevy and GMC scored a notable comeback with their Colorado and Canyon models, respectively. Honda brought back a new Ridgeline, while Ford returned with an Americanized Ranger for the 2019 model-year. Fiat Chrysler is just launching Jeep’s first pickup in 27 years, the midsize Gladiator, and working on a business plan for a new Dodge model.
(Ford invests $500m in electric pickup start-up Rivian. Click Here for more.)
Among other manufacturers considering their truck options, Volkswagen this month revealed the Tarok concept at the New York International Auto Show. It followed the midsize Tanoak concept VW revealed at the 2018 NYIAS and suggests the German automaker may be looking at the compact, rather than midsize segment.
Hyundai is also looking at a compact truck with the production version of the popular Santa Cruz concept of a few years back.
Ford, which hesitated for years before relaunching the Ranger, recently said it is also looking at its opportunities in the compact segment.
Even Mercedes-Benz has been studying the U.S. pickup market and could come up with an Americanized version of its first truck, the X-Class, in a number of global markets.
(Click Here for a review of the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab.)