It might seem that Mitsubishi is all but pulled out of the U.S. market, as it only sells four models in America: the compact Mirage, Eclipse Cross and Outlander Sport small crossovers, and the midsize Outlander CUV. Despite its small vehicle footprint, the brand has marked seven consecutive years of sales growth in the U.S.
The resurgent Japanese automaker is eyeing a path to increased success over the next decade, one that is already beginning to sound all too common across the industry: trucks and electrification. With which, Mitsu aims to redefine performance, and, at the same time, its brand in America.
“This is my belief: I think what’s defined as performance is going to evolve,” Mark Chaffin, chief operating officer-Mitsubishi Motors North America, said in an interview with Wards. “So you start mixing in some of that electrification technology and these hybrid drivetrains, the aspect of performance is really going to change in the future.”
Right now, Mitsubishi has reportedly been charged with leading engineering efforts in designing the next generation of body-on-frame trucks that will underpin a slew of vehicles across the Nissan Renault partnership, which includes Mitsubishi, and Mercedes-Benz.
So, not only will the next-generation of Mitsubishi Triton pickup be built on this new ladder frame chassis, so, too, will the Nissan Frontier, Renault Alaskan, and Mercedes X-Class.
Forecasters peg the all-new Frontier to make a U.S. debut in 2021 as a 2022 model. The Mitsu Triton will follow it a couple years later in 2024 as a 2025 model. If Chaffin’s words and Mitsubishi’s electrification-heavy lineup (albeit small) is any indication, there’s good chance this next-generation of compact truck will offer hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain options.
This would keep it competitive with dominant truck makers, specifically Ford and General Motors. Both of whom are working on EV trucks.
Ford will be building both an F-150 EV as well as a yet-unnamed pure-electric truck that it will — after a $500 million investment — co-develop along with electric vehicle upstart Rivian. And GM’s CEO Mary Barra just this week announced that the General be entering the EV pickup fray as well. So, not only will Mitsubishi have plenty of competition, it’ll be stiff at that.
While I would love to see Mitsubishi regain some market share in the U.S. with some smart, tough, efficient, and powerful electrified trucks, I worry it’s just not in the cards. Mitsu is really only moving the cars that it’s selling to American buyers because of a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) plus a ‘no payments for 12 months’ incentive deal the brand had been running. The Japanese automaker has had to do that, because — if I am honest — its cars aren’t that compelling … or good. That, and it has as much name recognition with U.S. shoppers as its promotional APR.
Worse yet, the EV market will not only be deeply competitive by 2025, with more than 207 new EV models scheduled to hit showrooms by then (from better-known and more cash-rich automakers), the models themselves won’t be profitable. Take that all into account, and suddenly Mitsu’s chances for not only survival but growth don’t look terribly promising.
Still, though, I’d love to see a mean Mitsu EV off-roading truck. I know their engineers have it in them.