None of these are far-fetched. All are totally doable.
It’s been a tough few years for Mitsubishi, but finally things are beginning to look up. Not only does it have a new superstar CEO, but also major financial backing thanks to the Renault-Nissan Alliance coming to its rescue. But look at its US lineup today; it’s bland. Back in the 1990s, sports cars, sedans, and SUVs dominated and Mitsubishi was, in a word, cool. How to bring that back? Obviously the automotive market is very different today, but we have six specific ideas that are also totally doable, technologically speaking, and that cater to consumer demand.
Let’s face it: Mitsubishi needs a new SUV. We’re not talking about another crossover, but a true off-road capable 4x4 that harkens back to the days of the Montero and Montero Sport. We brought this subject up with a senior Mitsubishi exec last March at Geneva and he confirmed the company is keen to make this happen. Mitsubishi is aware of the revival of mid-size off-road 4x4s in the US, like the 2020 Ford Bronco, and it also has hardcore SUV heritage. The Pajero (the Montero’s name in overseas markets) has won the gruelling Dakar Rally a record 15 times. Mitsubishi could turn to Nissan for help, who just so happens to have a great mid-size pickup truck platform available. Speaking of which...
Mid-size pickup trucks are making a comeback, and the Nissan Frontier is ancient compared to new entries from GM and the upcoming Ford Ranger. We’ve heard Nissan is prepping a new Frontier for the US, and that presents an opportunity for Mitsubishi to have a new truck of its own. To avoid internal competition, Mitsubishi could start with the new Nissan’s basic architecture and give it something unique. Off the top of our heads, make it a plug-in hybrid for even better efficiency. Mitsubishi already has this PHEV system in the Outlander, so it’d make sense to use it for more than one vehicle. On the other hand, if Mitsubishi is serious about that SUV, simply remove its rear seats and roof and turn it into a truck, with our without PHEV tech.
Continuing with off-road vehicles, we’ll just come out and say it: Mitsubishi ought to build a fully electric SUV, the first of its kind to come from a mainstream automaker. Before Mitsubishi became a part of the alliance, it was already investing heavily in battery tech. Renault-Nissan is doing the same. Why not combine all of that knowledge into an all-electric architecture designed specifically for rough surfaces? Think about it: lots of instant torque at each wheel will be extremely beneficial for rock crawling. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool for Mitsubishi to meet or beat Tesla to this segment?
We know everyone misses the Evo, the last cool car Mitsubishi had. Although the company claims the Evo won’t come back as a sedan, there is still a potential future for the nameplate and its high-performance AWD capabilities. There have been past rumors the Evo could return as an all-electric crossover. We’re cool with the EV part, but not the crossover. Given dwindling sedan sales, we can see why Mitsubishi thinks a crossover is the better choice, much to the chagrin of Evo fans. But we have a middle-of-the ground solution: a five-door all-electric hatchback. There’s nothing else like it (yet) and it would still offer the interior space and ease of rear point access as a CUV but without the ground clearance.
Fact: everyone hated the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, but Mitsubishi deserves credit for taking a risk by selling an affordable EV. At the time, as it turns out, America wasn’t ready for such a vehicle. Aside from its disappointing range of only 62 miles on a single charge, the i-MiEV was simply too small for Americans. But what about an all-electric city car closer in size and personality to a Mini hardtop? Heck, Mini itself is considering switching to an all-EV lineup, so the idea of a fun-to-drive, battery-powered city car isn’t so far-fetched. The technology for this car already exists and it’s called the Nissan Leaf. Mitsubishi could utilize the Leaf’s battery pack and other essentials, modify them as necessary, and install them in a more compact and sportier body.
We’re going out on a limb here, and we’d like to believe there’s a market out there. Mitsubishi, if it really wanted to take a chance, could do a four-door coupe, either as a PHEV or a pure EV. Perhaps both. Why can’t this be a reborn Diamante, the sedan Mitsubishi sold in the US from 1990 until 2005? Think of a scenario like this: if the Volkswagen CC is the poor man’s Audi then the Diamante could be the same for the Tesla Model S. Customers would benefit by having Japanese build quality and the comfort of knowing Mitsubishi is no longer in danger of financial collapse. The Model 3 is too small for some and the Model S too expensive, so an all-electric, sexy four-door coupe with the Diamante nameplate is an idea worth exploring.