Ditching Mitsubishi's Distressed Image Is New CEO's Biggest Priority

Interview

Altering a brand perception is easier said than done.

After several tough years Mitsubishi is finally getting things in order. New product, including the Eclipse Cross and Outlander PHEV are certainly helping things out, but there’s a larger issue at hand that needs fixing. Automotive News reports that newly appointed Mitsubishi CEO Fred Diaz is claiming the automaker’s “distressed” brand image is a self-inflicted injury. Let’s explain that. Over the past several years, Mitsubishi offered aging product but with aggressive sales incentives that attracted buyers on strict budgets.

Combined with a production plant closing in the US and a fuel emissions rigging scandal back in Japan, Mitsubishi’s image was about as low as it could get. Many wondered, including ourselves, whether it would leave the US market altogether, just like fellow Japanese brand Suzuki a few years prior. Diaz’s mission now is to ditch that “distressed” image and focus on the present and future, but it won’t be easy or fast. "How do we make sure that we're taking care of the brand so we're not spending too much from an incentive standpoint that makes our product look like a distressed product and a distressed brand?” Diaz said.

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The solution, according to Diaz, is in “learning how to discipline ourselves, to rein ourselves back in and quit being the high-value-only brand, but more of the great-quality, great-value brand.” Diaz previously headed up Nissan’s pickup truck division and now that Mitsubishi is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance, he was given the task of getting Mitsubishi back in shape. Although he admits he never thought much about the brand in the past, a closer examination of the automaker’s warranty claim data changed his mind. In short, claim figures were low but the brand’s “real world” perception also remained low. Now that Mitsubishi’s sales are increasing nicely, it’s time to hone brand perception.

One method will be to improve communications with its dealership network. But perhaps most important is the continued launch of new and relevant vehicles. A reborn Montero SUV, perhaps? We’d be down for that.

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