QotW: Can Mitsubishi Motors be saved?

We were dismayed last week to learn of the recent fate of Mitsubishi’s Pajero factory. In a turn that was almost near-perfect in its poetic tragedy, the once hallowed birthplace of the mighty Paris-Dakar champions was sold off to a toilet paper manufacturer. That comes after a string of other sadnesses, like the shuttering of its UK arm and the auctioning off of its entire heritage collection there, the ending of Mitsubishi Owners Day because its headquarters are effectively becoming a Nissan satellite office, and the fact that the most exciting Mitsubishi concept in years was actually a Hyundai. However, there are signs that not all hope is lost. There have been hints that the company wants to revive some of its former glory and it has restarted activities under the Ralliart brand. It’s going to be a long road, but:

Can Mitsubishi Motors be saved?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Who’s your favorite race car driver?“.

As expected, many of the greats were nominated this week, all hailing from a diverse range of motorsports. RainMeister offered excellent choices with Bob Sharp and Mark Donohue. Sammy B‘s list of Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney was great, too. Negishi no Keibajo’s pick of Paul Newman, always a class act, f31roger‘s of Keiichi Tsuchiya, Nigel‘s of Carlos Sainz, Ian G.‘s of Colin McRae, and Johnny‘s of Michèle Mouton were all excellent choices as well.

To be honest dankan‘s beautifully written ode to Noriyuki Haga probably should have won, but as others pointed out Haga was a motorcycle racer, not a race car driver. That’s our fault for framing the question poorly. So to be fair to those who put forth race car drivers, this week’s winner is Kevin H. Peter Cunningham is a legend, but Kevin’s story about Dale Earnhardt Jr. is just great:

I have two:
Peter Cunningham made me have pride in my own DC2. Yes my Integra was nothing like his but seeing him do what he and his team did on the track is what truly ignited my passion for Japanese cars. I grew up in Charlotte, N.C. aka NASCAR country in the 80s and 90s. Most people looked to V8, RWD, domestics for the ideal sports car. Yeah there were the guys in Cali and NJ (Englishtown) making big HP fwd Hondas, but straight line racing didn’t do it for me. Watching Peter Cunningham drive was like listening to a symphony performing a masterpiece. That was the first time I appreciated the apex, late braking, left foot braking, chassis control, etc… in car that looked like my own!

The second driver has little to do with his driving but more with just him as a person, Dale Earnhardt Jr. I meet Junior at a bar in downtown Charlotte years ago. I was with a group of friends that identified him. One of his posse overheard us and made a rude statement to my friend. Dale overheard his friend, took him to the side, asked him to leave, and paid for my group’s drinks. He hung out with us and invited us to his house, but we did not take him up on the offer. He sat next to me and we talked about cars and growing up around the area. Years later, while I was still living in Charlotte, I saw him driving his Vette. We caught eyes, I was driving my Corona Wagon, and he gave me a thumbs up. My head exploded, I was approved!

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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13 Responses to QotW: Can Mitsubishi Motors be saved?

  1. BlitzPig says:

    I think you are asking the wrong question. I think it should be “Should Mitisubishi be saved?”.
    Judging by the quality, or rather the lack of it, in the models sold in North America under their own name, and those sold by Chrysler, the answer is a resounding NO. Their cars were never up to the level of Honda, Toyota, or even Nissan. A few performance/sports models not withstanding, their cars simply could not compete on any level with the top tier Japanese brands, and the public voted with their wallets.

    Simply being a Japanese manufacturer is no guarantee of success.

    May they rust in peace.

  2. CycoPablo says:

    They could do it, with meticulous planning and Herculean effort, via WRC.
    A Ralliart Colt. Hybrid to conform to WRC regs. Hybrid and EV for consumers.
    It may be seen as copying Toyota with their GR Yaris, but Mitsu has a shortcut to production with their EV experience, so I think it could be done within two years.

  3. Jeremy A. says:

    Can they be saved? Yes. To paraphrase Lee Iacocca, Mitsubishi can be saved if they focus on producing small affordable cars that people want to buy. Right now, their small car offering, the Mirage, is laughable. It’s the butt of jokes. Their SUV and crossover offerings are bland and uninspired. If they focused on making a small, affordable car that was well built and had a comfortable, quality interior, and possible a hybrid drivetrain for efficiency and reduced cost of ownership, I think they could be saved. But will they? No, probably not. They’ll still keep pushing out bland, uninspired SUVs and crossovers that evoke only a shadow of former great cars, and keep pushing cars like the Mirage out. They seem to be intent on hastening their own death.

  4. Shaun says:

    Yes. And if the company itself can’t do it, the JNC Community will ! Who is with me ?

    • BlitzPig says:

      Small groups of enthusiasts wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Mitsubishi’s board room.
      The only way their automotive operations can be saved would be to have large numbers of sales. Just who is going to choose to buy a Mitsubishi over a Toyota or Honda in the North American market? That choice is currently offered and there is no land rush happening at the Mitsubishi store.

      It’s all about product, and Mitsu doesn’t have it.

    • Michael K says:

      I’m in.

  5. Natedog says:

    I believe that they could save themselves, if they would look more at the recipe of the late 80s to early 90’s. There is still a market for an affordable 2 door hatch, from a base model up to a small turbo’d performance model. I was hopeful when the Mirage was reintroduced that they would go down that path, but instead all 4 door, and the build quality was not there in the one I drove.

    Another overlooked possibility is a small two door pickup (yes I’m harping on 2 door vehicles today). Many people could use a small truck still, and don’t need room for 4+ people all the time.

    I always inspect the new vehicles they are churning out when purchasing parts from the dealership. It seems they have lost the way, just take a look at that abomination the Eclipse Cross…

  6. RainMeister says:

    My first new car was a Dodge Colt (nee Mirage), so it pains me to see what has become of this company. The die was cast the moment the Mitsubishi group dumped its car making unit onto Nissan. The brand will disappear from most markets except Southeast Asia, where they still have a strong presence. Expect to see rebranded Nissan models sold in Mitsubishi strongholds like Thailand, similar to how VW markets rebranded Volkswagens in Spain (SEAT) and the Czech Republic (Skoda).

  7. Legacy-san says:

    Mitsubishi Motors has a lot more in common with Chrysler than most people realize, and it’s fitting that MMC is suffering the same fate as the once mighty Chrysler. During the late 1920s and 30’s Chrysler raced and finished at LeMans several times and the Hemi was the favorite in NASCAR in the original Chrysler 300.

    The 1955-1965 Chrysler 300 “letter series” coupes and convertibles were THE car to have, and were expensive for their time, similar to the Evo series that MMC no longer makes.

    Chrysler engineering was once considered the “gold standard” and even developed a turbine engine installed in a car that selected American drivers were allowed to drive around before each car was collected and crushed. Both Chrysler and Mitsubishi Motors are now only shells of what they once were.

    • RainMeister says:

      Indeed, Mitsubishi at one time was considered the enthusiast cars in their respective segments, and I’m talking well before the EVOs came to market. The original Colt/Mirage Turbo with Twin-stick transmission was the hot hatchback to have for enthusiasts during the early ’80s. The Starion ESI-R was a formidable competitor to the RX7 and ZX Turbos. The Galant VR 4 was much more fun to drive than Camrys and Accords of the era. Their decline coincided with their retreat from the enthusiast market, and that was due to the high cost of producing those technology-laden cars.

      As usual, MotorWeek comes to the rescue in allowing us to remember just how good those earlier cars were:

      Mirage: https://youtu.be/S4GtYrhflTA
      Galant: https://youtu.be/1c7UCiAbqDk
      Starion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1BEBKkul1g

  8. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Here’s the frustrating thing. People lately have become more brand conscious, and at this point the only thing that’s keeping them in the US are the Mirage sub-compact, and the Eclipse Cross and Outlander models.
    Why? Didn’t matter that you had a performance sedan, sporty coupe, sports car, or even rebadged Dodges. You have a Corolla, you’re getting a RAV4. You have a 328? You’re getting an X3.
    As I see it, the thing keeping Mitsubishi around in the US is low-priced cars that happen to be less expensive than that Toyota everyone wants. Hopefully like it was in the 70s, they can build in the brand again.
    Now I can’t say for other countries, as I hear that Mitsubishi does well elsewhere.

  9. Saii says:

    Bring back the evo. Thats it. Drove an evo 10 yesterday and it sparked a lot of joy. If they want people to buy more mitsis in the future then they need to put smiles on people faces by being fun to drive. And their current line up of suv cross overs isnt doing it.

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