It’ll Take More Than a Dealership Makeover to Propel Mitsubishi Upmarket

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander rear quarter

At the end of the day, brand perception comes down to product, but no one likes visiting a dingy dealership. As the once-endangered Mitsubishi awaits a slew of lucrative new products (crafted with Nissan’s help), it figures it may as well begin sprucing up its dealer presence — not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

While the automaker’s U.S. division sits back and basks in the glow of June’s 46.2 percent year-over-year sale increase, head office is busy planning 5,000 renovations.

According to Automotive News, Mitsubishi plans to complete its dealer makeover within 6 years, by which time the alliance between the formerly destitute brand and its Renault-Nissan overlords should bear fruit. Maybe even a North American pickup truck, if certain execs get their way.

The dealer revamp kicked off on Independence Day at one West Virginia store and another in Texas. By the end of March 2019, Mitsubishi claims it should have 25 of its 354 stores looking fresh and new. Apparently, Mazda’s ongoing image overhaul provided something of a template — Mitsu’s preferred interior color scheme is black, white, and grey, while Mazda’s is black, white, and silver. Classy, premium colors, apparently, though Mazda bolsters the effect with the use of wood.

“The intent is to ensure consistent image of all outlets globally and enhance customer satisfaction,” Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said in June. “This will help further instill our brand in the markets.”

Image: Mitsubishi Canada

In Canada, Mitsubishi launched a country-wide modernization program early last year, with some dealers gaining wholly new stores. The global makeover applies here, too. Red accents and a “Dynamic Slope” will appear on the exterior of all stores, with well-lit showroom space residing under a black ceiling. Customers will apparently be well-greeted upon entering.

While many look at the brand’s current crop of products and think back wistfully to the days of the (real) Eclipse and 3000GT, today’s customers are buying what Mitsubishi’s selling. Thanks to a big volume increase from its utility vehicle portfolio, the brand’s U.S. sales rose 23.4 percent over the first six months of 2018. Last month was the brand’s best U.S. June showing in the since 2007. In Canada, it was the best June ever, with sales up 18 percent, year over year.

The aging Outlander remains the brand’s best-seller, with U.S. sales up 58.8 percent, year over year, in June. The oft-refreshed Outlander Sport posted a 25 percent YoY increase. Couple those sales with the recent addition of the Outlander PHEV and Eclipse Cross, and utility vehicle sales rose 64.4 percent compared to June 2017. If you’re curious, sales of the three-cylinder Mirage have only slipped 3.7 percent, year to date.

[Image: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Mitsubishi Canada]

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