Or does the brand still have some life left?
Mitsubishi has been scrambling for the past couple of years in order to ditch its "distressed" image of an automaker that aggressively discounts cars to target buyers on a tight budget. Last year in 2018, the Japanese automaker had its best sales year since 2007 but was still outsold more than two-to-one by the Toyota Corolla. The company's newly appointed CEO, Takao Kato, says the low-volume strategy in the US needs a rethink but pulling out of the market entirely is "probably" not an option. Mitsubishi will stay in the US (for now) but it needs to make some major changes in order to be successful.
"If you are a big-scale OEM, of course you will be able to secure a profit. But will that be appropriate for us too, at [Mitsubishi]?" Kato said in his first news conference as CEO. "This is something we believe we should deliberate on going forward."
In order to help Mitsubishi succeed, Kato will implement the "small but beautiful" strategy created by his predecessor, Osamu Masuko. This strategy involves focusing on profitability with steady growth rather than attempting to capitalize on rapid volume expansion.
Mitsubishi's plans through 2021 include a new SUV (possibly with the Pajero or Montero names), a next-generation Outlander PHEV, a possible midsize pickup truck, and a refreshed Outlander Sport. The company will also play to its strengths by building small cars for emerging markets like Southeast Asia.
Despite Mitsubishi finding success in emerging markets, it isn't ready to give up on the US. "It's not easy to be in that market," Kato said in reference to the US. "Sales are being continued. North America is one of the biggest markets. Therefore, exiting from the sales market would probably not be an option."
Since Mitsubishi has been lumped in with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, we think the Japanese automaker stands a chance at turning its fortunes around.