Despite rising interest rates and an uncertain supply chain, Mitsubishi is celebrating its 40th anniversary in the United States with rising sales, new products and plans to revive the Ralliart sub-brand.
Mark Chaffin, Mitsubishi Motor North America CEO, told TheDetroitBureau.com, “We needed to re-invent and evolve our brand in the U.S.”
Mitsubishi was sent reeling by the sub-prime loan disaster ahead of the Great Recession. The Japanese brand’s sales sank — along with the rest of the auto industry’s — during the recession, and its product line grew old, prompting speculation the brand might withdraw from the U.S. market.
Mitsubishi set plans for recovery in place
But Mitsubishi hung on to its place in the U.S., and its Japanese parent, battered by a scandal, partnered with Nissan on developing new vehicles and powertrains.
Chaffin noted MMNA has now settled into its new headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, and moved to rebuild its dealer network. In the past year, Mitsubishi has added 150 dealerships, he said.
“We’re seeing dealers invest in the brand again,” he said, noting 58% of the dealers have upgraded their facilities. Part of the money also is going to a “new visual identify for the brand,” Chaffin added.
MMNA sales increased 16% in 2021, and jumped another 6% during the first half of 2022, making Mitsubishi the fastest growing mass-market brand in the U.S. market in recent months.
Mitsubishi also successfully launched the new 2022 Outlander, which is drawing in new customers despite being in short supply. “Our sales volume would be even better if we could more vehicles.
It is preparing for the launch of the 2023 Outlander PHEV this fall, which also will increase sales, he said.
Ralliart revival planned
Chaffin also said Mitsubishi is preparing to re-launch its Ralliart sub-brand in the United States.
Ralliart is Mitsubishi Motors’s iconic competition sub-brand, with a history in rallying and off-road racing in the world-famous Dakar Rally. It is returning to the U.S. in early calendar year 2023 with Outlander, Outlander PHEV, Eclipse Cross, Outlander Sport and Mirage receiving unique body effects, graphics and other rally-inspired touches, according to Cason Grover, MMNA director of product planning.
All models will be built in limited numbers and available in White Diamond paint with a contrasting black roof on Outlander, Outlander PHEV, Eclipse Cross, Outlander Sport and Mirage.
Others are beginning to take notice
MMNA placed second in rankings among mass-market automotive brands in the “2022 Automotive Reputation Report” from Reputation, an annual analysis of customer experience that includes 35,000 automotive OEM brands, dealer groups and dealerships across the United States, Canada and Europe.
The second-place rank culminates a three-year rise that saw the brand climb from 17th among 19 mass-market automotive brands in 2020. Mitsubishi was the most improved brand in the study in 2021, posting a 58-point year-over-year improvement and ranking fourth.
“Mitsubishi Motors is in the midst of a brand-wide moment, proven by exciting new vehicles, welcoming new and updated dealerships, and an absolute commitment to customer satisfaction. To see that work validated in the 2022 Reputation Auto Report rankings is exciting, to say the least, and is proof of the value of this hard work,” said Chaffin.