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Mitsubishi aims to double its sales in the U.S. in the next three years, says Mitsubishi North America Executive VP John Koenig. Last year the Japanese automaker sold just 53,986 vehicles in the U.S., down alarmingly by 44.5 percent compared to 2008. While the recession did hurt the automaker considerably, Koenig believes that much of the loss can be attributed to a heavy focus on fleet sales and a perceived brand instability, with reports that the company would pull out of the U.S. market.
Mitsubishi isn’t just hoping either, but has put together an extensive plan for the brand, which started by redesigning vehicles to look more like the stylish Lancer and continues with the launch of the new 2010 Outlander.
The next step, while still unconfirmed by Mitsubishi, will include the introduction of two new models to the marketplace, a smaller crossover (aimed at the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4) as well as a new subcompact model to slot in underneath the Lancer. The compact crossover market has grown considerably over the past few years and Mitsubishi’s Outlander grew in size during that time, leading compact CUV buyers to look elsewhere. A sporty new crossover like the ASX (also called the RVR), which is headed to its debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March, is just what the automaker needs. Mitsu has also targeted the emerging sub-compact market, with rumors that the Colt will return to take on the likes of the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, as well as newcomers like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2.
A mini-car called the iMiEV is also set for the U.S. market, with Mitsubishi still deciding on if it will offer both a gasoline and electric version. Sales of this model, however, aren’t expected to be significant.
One area where Mitsu also needs to improve is with the Galant mid-size sedan, which is in desperate need of replacement. Koenig admits that one reason for a decline in Galant sales is a reduction in demand by rental car agencies – a strong sign that the car isn’t popular with consumers.
Mitsubishi’s plan isn’t as optimistic as it sounds and might just be an easily achievable goal, as with a lineup similar to the current one, Mitsu sold 128,993 units in 2007. And while the automaker has continued to slide in recent years back in 2002 it managed to move a significant 345,111 models
Along with a new list of products Mitsubishi is also looking to get more heavily involved in advertising and has already purchased numerous spots on network TV. Mitsubishi’s public relations head Maurice Durand commented that when it comes to the high-volume models like the Outlander and Lancer, “We have to work hard to enhance their perception and desirability.”
[Source: Ward's Auto via Autoblog]
Mitsubishi has already announced plans to bring its electric mini-car, the iMiEV, to North America, but now the Japanese automaker is considering a gasoline version as well. The iMiEV is expected to arrive in the next two years and is now likely to be joined by a gasoline version, allowing dealers to benefit from higher volume sales.
In Europe the gasoline i gets a turbocharged 660cc engine, but that is likely to be tossed in favor of the same 1.0-liter three-cylinder found in what will be the car’s main competitor, the Smart fortwo, said Mitsubishi North America VP John Koenig. The decision to do so is an easy one as the Smart’s engine is already supplied by Mitsubishi.
Koenig also said that in order to make a business case for the gas-powered i, Mitsu would have to sell roughly 1,000 a month. That seems doable as Smart sold 20,000 units so far in 2009 and the i would likely be both more affordable and more functional, with four seats rather than two.
[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]