There's good news and bad news for Mitsubishi's future in the States and it all comes straight from the mouth of the Japanese company's President Osamu Masuko, who was recently interviewed by Autonews Asia Editor Hans Greimel.
For starters, despite some rumors, Mitsubishi has no plans to withdraw from the U.S. market nor will it shut down its Illinois plant where 1,900 workers are employed manufacturing the Outlander Sport. In fact, according to the automaker's three-year business plan named "New Stage 2016", it aims to boost global sales 29 percent to 1.43 million vehicles and North American deliveries by more than a third to 150,000 units annually.
Masuko, 64, told the news agency that the key ingredient to pushing up sales will be a "back to basics" strategy that will improve the brand's foothold in SUV and crossover segments, and at the same time, place more focus on electrified and hybrid drive-trains, while also making the best of an agreement it has with the Nissan-Renault Alliance on the development of sedans, small cars and EVs.
As part of that plan, Mitsubishi is readying a new Pajero SUV (also known as the Montero and Shogun), which is the brand's equivalent to the Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser, that will be offered as a hybrid. The series was discontinued in the United States in 2006, but Masuko said the new model might return to the market.
"We would like to bring the next-generation version [of the Pajero] that we are developing, partly because it will have a plug-in hybrid version," said Masuko. The bad news is that Mitsubishi's new strategy doesn't give much love to the brand's livelier sporty side. Asked about what "happened to Mitsubishi's sporty cars such as the Eclipse or the Lancer Evolution", the 64-year old executive answered: "When you look at the global ranking of top-selling Mitsubishi vehicles, at the top are pickups, then the Pajero and Pajero Sport and then the Outlander and Outlander Sport," explained Masuko.
"We want to further enhance our strong suits. That will better secure the future of our brand. This is a simple strategy of back to basics. We have produced sports cars in the past. But we have to prioritize. When you consider Mitsubishi's size and management resources, we can't do everything on our own."
While the Mitsubishi boss didn't outright kill the brand's sports car future, his words are exactly promising, now, are they…