More Dealers, Lease Products Coming to Mitsubishi, but No Pickups Just Yet

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Image: Mitsubishi

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Now part of an alliance with cash and platforms to toss around, Mitsubishi’s growing bolder in its quest to remind buyers that it’s not about to disappear from the American automotive landscape. Buyers, of course, are already helping the brand regain its footing. February’s U.S. sales were the highest since the heady and ominous year of 2007 (up 18.8 percent, year over year).

Through the end of February, U.S. sales are up 23.4 percent over the same period in 2017.

Having crawled out of the five-figure sales number nightmare that plagued the brand over the past decade, Mitsubishi dealers met in Las Vegas recently to discuss the near future. Some requests were granted, but a long-standing demand went unfulfilled.

The good news for dealers is that those that already exist are performing better than in recent years. Speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association meetup, soon-to-retire North American COO Don Swearingen said the number of dealers selling less than 10 vehicle per month now stands at the lowest point in 10 years. Dealer profitability has also reached the highest point in that time frame, he added.

To move more cars off lots, new lots are coming — 20 to 30 in the coming year. The brand also plans to satisfy the 30-plus percent of Americans who prefer leasing, dealers told Automotive News. A lack of lease products was apparently one of the dealer network’s biggest gripes; to correct this, Mitsubishi plant to work with financial partner Ally Financial to rustle up some competitive deals.

For added visibility, the brand’s ad budget will rise to its highest level since 2007 this year. If you’re like this author, you’ve grown annoyed with the number of Eclipse Cross commercials airing on network TV, but don’t expect those to go away anytime soon. The Eclipse Cross compact crossover is basically it for new product, at least until the brand works out a platform-sharing plan with its alliance partners. Expect the marriage to bear kids in the coming decade.

What dealers want to see, however, is not another CUV (even though it would almost certainly boost volume), but a pickup. Ever since the slow-selling, Dodge-Dakota-based Raider disappeared in 2009, the brand hasn’t fielded a pickup truck in the U.S. market. Overseas, Mitsu is well-known for its L200 and Triton midsize trucks.

Clearly, dealers expect great things from new CEO Fred Diaz, formerly of Fiat Chrysler’s Ram division and Nissan’s truck division. Great, trucky things. Still, that longed-for product — which will surely share its architecture with a Nissan product, if built — remains a ghost. Diaz didn’t promise the dealers anything in Las Vegas. Hope springs eternal, however, and the dealers know Diaz is their biggest ally in making a truck happen.

“Getting a pickup is something our dealers have wished for years,” Swearingen told Automotive News. “So they were very glad to see Fred standing there in the meeting.”

[Image: Mitsubishi]

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