Mitsubishi joined the Renault-Nissan alliance a little more than a year ago and the change has given the automaker an enormous lift, according to executives from Mitsubishi Motors North America.
The shift has boosted the spirits of dealers, given the company more clout while buying ads and within three years Mitsubishi expects new products, developed by the alliance, will start showing up in Mitsubishi showrooms around the country, said Don Swearingen, MMNA executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The first product from the alliance will roll out in 2020 as 2021 model, Swearingen said. At the same, time the company will be sharing its plug-in hybrid technology with Nissan. In turn, Renault-Nissan will provide Mitsubishi with battery electric vehicles, he said.
Dealers are also hoping the alliance with Renault and Nissan will produce a truck for them to sell in the not too distant future, MMNA officials said.
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Ken Konieczka, MMNA vice president of sales operations, noted Mitsubishi, after four consecutive years of growth, expects to continue to grow its sales to 140,000 vehicles in fiscal year 2018, which according to the company’s operating calendar begins next April 1, and to 150,000 In fiscal ’19.
“We have momentum and new product,” said Konieczka as Mitsubishi rolled out the new Eclipse Cross in Santa Monica. “Our dealers are getting much more energized,” Konieczka as monthly sales per outlet have increased from the low point after the recession; while the alliance has helped convince dealers they have a future.
The Eclipse Cross fits neatly into the Mitsubishi’s line-up of crossover vehicles, which now includes the Outlander Sport and Outlander and the Outlander PHEV, which made its debut this fall.
It fits between the Outlander Sport and the Outlander in the compact crossover market, which has emerged as the fastest growing segment in the U.S. market in the past couple of years, Mitsubishi executives said.
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Nate Berg, senior manager of product planning, said the Eclipse name was chosen for new vehicle because it recalls the name the small, sporty coupe that Mitsubishi. The new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was designed to evoke the sportiness of the earlier versions of the Eclipse, dating back to the 1990s.
The new Eclipse is powered by a new 1.5-liter engine and is also equipped with some of the very latest technology, including driver assistance features such as blind-spot detection and lane departure and a new Mitsubishi Connect system. The system, developed by Mitsubishi can automatically summon help if the vehicle is involved in an accident or employed remotely to start the vehicle’s engine.
Francine Harsini, MMNA director of marketing, said Mitsubishi is planning a substantial advertising push next spring to help launch the new Eclipse Cross.
“It will be our biggest spend in 10 years,” said Harsini, who said the campaign will mark the brand’s return to broadcast television advertising but will also include spending on cable television, digital advertising and social media.
Mitsubishi recently brought on a new advertising agency, Butler Schine Stern & Partners of Sausalito, California, which recently handled the advertising for Mini, to help prepare the new campaign. Mitsubishi also used this past summer’s solar eclipse to show off the new vehicle well before vehicle’s official launch.
Being part of the alliance also helped Mitsubishi’s ad dollars go further because they now cooperate with Nissan in purchasing advertising for the U.S. market, Harsini said. Ad strategy and creative are the responsibility of each brand and handled separately but procurement is now done jointly, she said.
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Swearnigen noted Carlos Ghosn has some very ambitious plans for the alliance, including the sales of more than 14 million vehicles annually early in the coming decade. Ghosn also has identified China and U.S. as the markets with the most potential for growth and Mitsubishi is expected to be a full partner in to be a full partner in meeting the goals of the new alliance, he said.