A Long Goodbye

Mitsubishi Motors is a fading presence in the European automotive landscape and could soon be consigned to history. DTW remembers better times for the marque and surveys its current state.

A shrinking presence: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: (c) mitsubishi-motors.com

Since the turn of the millennium, Mitsubishi Motors’ European sales have been in slow, if erratic, long-term decline. The high point was reached in 1999, when Mitsubishi sold a total of 205,009(1) vehicles and achieved a market share of 1.34%. In 2019, the comparative figures were 144,670 and 0.92%. The decline would have been more precipitous had it not been for the L200 pick-up truck, which has since 1978 been the bedrock of the company’s sales, and the 2012 Outlander PHEV, which carved a distinctive niche for itself as the first plug-in hybrid SUV.

Over the past two decades, the company has been rocked by two major scandals. The first broke in 2004, when it was revealed that Mitsubishi had been covering up vehicle defects including failing clutches and brakes and leaking fuel lines, refusing to issue recalls for these systemic problems. The company was forced to recall and rectify over 160,000 vehicles, forcing Mitsubishi group companies to provide ¥540 billion ($4.9 billion) in emergency funding and a ¥50 billion ($455 million) recapitalisation.

The second scandal broke in early 2016 when Nissan, having contracted with Mitsubishi to develop a new Kei(2) car, discovered irregularities in the latter’s official fuel-economy data. It transpired that Mitsubishi had been falsifying data for twenty-five years. The scandal led to the resignation of the company’s president, Tetsuro Aikawa. Nissan seized the opportunity the crisis presented and acquired a 34% stake and effective control of its beleaguered competitor. Mitsubishi became a junior partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, no longer in control of its own destiny.

In July 2020, Mitsubishi announced that it would no longer develop new models for the European market. Sales of existing vehicles would continue until they reached the end of their production life, but no replacements would be forthcoming. Mitsubishi would instead concentrate on the South-East Asian market that in 2019 accounted for over 83% of the company’s global operating profits. There appears to be some confusion regarding Mitsubishi’s commitment to the US but, with a market share flatlining around 0.7%, the outlook is not propitious.

This pessimistic situation is a long way removed from the closing decades of the last millennium, when Mitsubishi was a flourishing and distinctive (if somewhat left-field and niche) marque with a loyal band of devotees.

1986 Mitsubishi Shogun Mk1 LWB (c) mitsubishi-motors.co.uk

Mitsubishi was one of the first manufacturers to recognise the opportunity presented by the growing demand for more civilised 4×4 SUVs. The 1982 Shogun(3) predated the Land-Rover Discovery by seven years and was a huge success. Available in three-door SWB and five-door LWB models, they were highly practical and robust vehicles that combined excellent off-road abilities with adequate on-road comfort and refinement. The Shogun was improved and updated regularly, and each of the first three generations was replaced within a decade.

At its peak, demand in the UK for the Shogun was sufficiently high for a flourishing market to develop in JDM(4) grey imports, recognisable by unusual colour and trim combinations and, of course, the Pajero badges. The fourth-generation model has, however, been on the market since 2006 and is increasingly outdated. It was discontinued in Europe in 2018 and Japan in 2019 without a direct replacement, although it remains on sale in Australia, the Middle East and South America, where arduous driving conditions keeps it in demand.

2015 Mitsubishi Evo X (c) motor1.com

Mitsubishi’s other landmark car was the Evolution high-performance four-wheel-drive version of the otherwise mundane Lancer saloon, produced in ten generations between 1992 and 2016. The Evo, as it became commonly known, was a successful rally car and had a cult following similar to that of the Subaru Impreza WRX, and cared for examples are highly prized today.

Mitsubishi was always a minor player in export markets and something of a left-field choice. That said, they were well engineered and beautifully built cars. There was a brief period around the turn of the millennium when the company’s Galant large saloon was spoken of in similar terms to the BMW 5 Series, and with justification.

The 1996 to 2006 seventh-generation Galant was a smooth, handsome and understated design, with a slim, reverse-rake front end and even a hint of Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar. The top-line VR4 version was powered by a 2.5 litre twin-turbo V6 engine producing 276bhp and driving all four wheels via a five-speed manual or four-speed semi-automatic transmission. 0 to 60mph (97km/h) was achieved in 5.2 seconds and the car’s top speed was over 150mph (242km/h). It even came in a handsome and practical estate version. It was a perfect car for those who wanted to travel quickly in comfort and, at the same time, anonymously.

Sadly, not many would overlook the appeal of the premium German marques in favour of a little known and poorly appreciated Japanese challenger. The Galant was withdrawn from the UK market in 2003 and not replaced.

1996 Mitsubishi Galant VR4 (c) mad4wheels.com

Mitsubishi’s UK range today is, to say the least, aged and threadbare. Excluding the evergreen L200 pick-up, it comprises five distinct models. At the bottom of the range is the Mirage, a five-door supermini hatchback that has been on the market since 2012 with barely anyone noticing, so poor have been its sales. Auto Express magazine tested the Mirage in October 2017 and rated it at two stars (out of five) citing its poor ride, handling and refinement as serious deficiencies.

Next is the ASX, a small crossover launched in 2010. It is a conventional and not unpleasant looking example of the genre, although disfigured by a facelift in 2017. Autocar rated it a creditable 3½ stars, describing it as “practical, safe, easy to drive, well equipped and affordable to run. It’s comfortable, too, with a ride quality that’s well-judged for British roads.” The magazine criticised its “bland interior, excessive engine noise and lack of glamour” and acknowledged that it was unlikely to win many potential buyers over as it was “all too forgettable”.

2014 Mitsubishi ASX (c) caradvice.com.au

The Eclipse Cross is the next model in Mitsubishi’s range and was launched in 2017. It shares the same 2,670mm (105”) wheelbase as the ASX and is only 110mm (4½”) longer overall, which positions it oddly close to the ASX in such a limited range of vehicles. Moreover, it appears to share many of the older model’s demerits. Autocar rated it at just three stars and forecast that it would have only minority appeal.

The large Outlander SUV is most notable for its once unique PHEV drivetrain that made it highly attractive to company car drivers. Mitsubishi sold 47,381 Outlanders in Europe in 2019, which was almost a third of the company’s total sales in the region. However, now that newer PHEV competitors have arrived, the ageing Mitsubishi may find it harder to retain its appeal.

The final model in the UK range, nominally at least, is the Shogun Sport. I say nominally because Mitsubishi sold a grand total of 641 across Europe in 2019. This is a large SUV based on the ladder chassis of the L200 pick-up. When launched in April 2018, Mitsubishi forecast annual UK sales of between 3,000 and 3,500, targeting those who needed the towing capacity of a pick-up married to the flexibility of its seven-seat passenger capacity.  Apparently, most did not.

Rarity: 2019 Mitsubishi Shogun Sport (c) motor1.com

Where does that leave Mitsubishi Motors in Europe today? Back in 2016, there were hopes that membership of the Renault-Nissan alliance would bring new investment and new Mitsubishi models on stream. The alliance’s well publicised problems in the intervening years appear to have extinguished any hopes for a reinvigoration of Mitsubishi as a global player. With an aged model line-up and shrinking market share, it surely cannot be long before the shutters come down permanently in Europe(5), and possibly also in the US.

(1) All sales and market share data from http://www.carsalesbase.com.

(2) Kei cars are JDM city cars limited by regulations specifying overall size and engine capacity.

(3) Pajero in its home market.

(4) Japanese Domestic Market.

(5) On 15th December 2020 it was revealed that talks between Bassadone Automotive Group, owner of the UK importer of Ssangyong vehicles, and Mitsubishi Motors about taking over the Mitsubishi UK franchise had ended without agreement, allegedly because the two parties could not agree a valuation for the business. Mitsubishi will continue to provide servicing and spares after new vehicle sales cease.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

46 thoughts on “A Long Goodbye”

  1. Hi Daniel, good morning.
    I was born in italy in 1978 and now live in germany, mitsubishi was a niche presence, the growth i remember most impressively is hyunday-kia in my opinion. Who knows what the market will be like in ten years, if we will buy chinese brands or if alfa and lancia will be objects of desire again.

  2. Thanks for that reminder of the existence of Mitsubishi. Subaru are not very far behind, are they? The problems named in the article passed me by so I wonder if they also registered as problems with the public at large. I think the main reason is the vicious circle of a too many misses and not enough hits leading to a starved budget for development. Also, Mitsubishi didn´t keep up with the format shift. It´s evidently an engineering-led company, like Subaru making cars for a continent not so terribly interested in longevity and robustness as you´d think.

  3. Good morning Marco and Richard. I well remember Mitsubishi’s ‘purple period’ around the turn of the millennium when Shogun SUVs were a common sight and the Evo Lancers had a cult following. However, it is the 1996 Galant that I remember most fondly. It was a handsome and well-engineered car that was, if only briefly, a left-field alternative to the 5 Series, especially in VR4 form:

    As you say, Richard, it had a reputation as an engineering-led company and seemed a cut above Nissan and Toyota. Its recent output has been very middling and the news that the company is to depart these shores will surely become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    1. Hi Daniel, I believe we never had the Galant in Italy. It is very pleasant indeed. It remembers me the Primera P11

  4. That Galant also attracted my attention. However the one before it was quite lovely with superbly organised surfaces. It was the 1987 car which, in a way, appealed for the same kinds of cerebral reasons a Lancia might. Some of them were very advanced technically, with 4WS and AWD plus 灰皿, as they call it in Japanese.

    1. Hi Richard. Here’s the model to which you refer:

      That also came in the high-performance VR4 version.

    2. I think that´s a cracking looking car. Scouting around, they are for sale for 1500-3000 euros. If you like the core values of Lancia you´d like this. It´s sober, serious and well assembled. While Lancia was led by the nose towards walnut and leather, Mitsubishi served up here a car you´d recognise as conceptually the same as a 1960s Appia or Flavia. The dashboard and trimmings are austere as per old-days Benz.
      Mitsubishi wasn´t helped by the car magazines who tended to keep bringing image into their assessments. Thanks for reminding me of Mitsu´s golden years. And maybe my dream classic is not what I thought it was. I´d forgotten how nice these ´87 cars were (and I liked them when they were new too).
      Looking at it from a wider perspective, the engineering-led companies have not done so well. It turns out that not enough people want a serious, thoughtfully-engineered car.

  5. My first car was a 89 Galant that looked almost identical to the one Daniel posted a picture of, only it was a 2.0 GLSI, and not a VR4.
    I really loved that car, and it was perfect for cruising around in with your mates, music playing as loud as possible.
    Never should have sold it, but i really wanted an old Mini, so it had to go after a year of trusty service.

    At the time i remember really lusting after the sigma as well – they were probably crap, but an even more luxurious galant with a “big” v6 really appealed to me back then.

    My mothers car at the time was a blue 97 Impreza, so i had a real hard time deciding which side of the fence i was on in the big scooby vs evo war (scoobs won in the end)

    Never bought another mitsu, though i was seriously hunting for a Delica for a few years before buying my domingo.
    90s and early 2000s mitsu had so many great cars, its a shame to see what they have become.

    Rumors have it renault/nissan is trying to offload mitsu again, so maybe they can find a better partner and regain their identity (not likely)

    As for the final generation discussed in this article, the classic car dealer who i tasked with selling my r5 GTE had a mint looking japanese import Legnum vr4 standing in the back, waiting to come of age and become road legal – my mouth was watering, but i had another car in my sights, and wouldn’t be swayed 😉

    1. A Subaru Domingo. Brilliant. As well as a thing for saloons I have a nascent fascination for vans kitted out like houses inside. The Domingo is thrilingly anti-car. It´s so incredibly friendly and useful. Much as I love Europe there is a boring streak in the culture here that rules out jolly cars like the Domingo and Delica. There´s a PhD to be written about this. It also says alot about my/our igorance of Japan that I/we are surprised by the range of their tastes and interests.

    2. yeah, when i grew up car-fandom was all about germanic seriousness or american muscle, so i’m glad todays younger generations are more hyped about weird and fun japanese cars.
      I guess the french also had a good period in the old days with all the different beach buggy specials (R4 Plein-Air anyone?), but that sense of fun disappeared long ago.
      Seems like people are getting less and less interested in cars overall (other then as an appliance), but everyone goes nuts when they see the Domingo, and everyone i know have been on the lookout for nice examples since bought mine – Subaru really should make a new one, crashworthiness be damned 😉

    3. Muscle cars and sports cars haven´t really done it for me though a few are of passing interest. I feel it´s more interesting to make a car that is useful and nice to drive and also good looking – if its quite fast that´s a bonus. But as you add speed you reduce utility, cramp the scope for creative style and possibly make them less appealing at ordinary speeds. The Domingo is an fascinatingly extreme car, as extreme as a Ferrari but much nicer. And in my books nice matters a lot. Since speed is now an irrelevance in driving, you might expect manufacturers to explore the other ways a car can be good to own and live with and so far there´s little effort in this direction. Citroen´s C6 didn´t win many friends and the car-like vans such as the S-Max and Zafira don´t make people swoon (but are actually delicious objects to use). Sports cars are like top hats.

    4. Though my main love has always been vans and tiny underpowered cars, i still do like proper sports cars, but i have never owned one, and probably wont any time soon.
      The only problem is that you cant really enjoy wringing them out on public roads, unless they are small and weak like an MX5, and most of them dont even look good!
      The domingo might not be fast with its 54hp and high sentre of gravity, but it can still husle, and the engine loves being revved, so driving it fast on twisty roads is still a hoot.

      The latest addition to my fleet is a 95 jaguar XJR, and its nowhere near as exciting to chuck about on twisty roads as the tiny domingo, even though it is a hundred times faster.
      Great fun on the open road though, as its packs a punch, sound great and wafts along with great style and lots of comfort.

    5. Living in Denmark a Cadillac de Ville 2-door is what I´d like for wafting. They only get to 90 miles per hour (more realistically they run at 60-65) which is a shade above the average speed here. If I really wanted a sports car I´d be looking at minnows like the Copen. Even the MX-5 is getting a bit too hard boiled for me.

  6. The mk2 Shogun/Pajero was highly popular in our rural backwater back in the 90’s. There was even a second-hand dealer in Norwich that sold almost nothing else:

    They were certainly thought of as much more reliable than the early Series 1 Discovery against which they competed.

  7. The Outlander or Foutlander as it’s nicknamed in the Netherlands (fout means wrong or error in Dutch) is still a rather popular sight over here. A very unattractive vehichle in my book. It only sold well as a company car because as a PHEV it was taxed less than a ICE powered vehicle. Now the tax regime has changed these are hard to sell or trade in. Many Outlanders and other PHEV’s had the charging cable still wrapped in plastic when the lease ended and the cars were traded in, or so the story goes.

    I don’t think the Galant is attractive either. Slightly odd proportions and therefore not good looking. Comparing it to a Lancia is a very big stretch of the imagination, at least for me. The great Lancia’s like the Aurelia GT are achingly beautiful, these are just cars. And wasn’t the Galant more of a 3-series competitor? The Sigma was the car to take on the 5-series, A6 and E-class, as far as I can tell. I think I only saw a Sigma once.

    A lack of success is all the reason Mitsubishi needs to give up on the European market and quite frankly that’s good business sense. On the downside there’s less choice for us consumers. But then again I never owned a Mitsubishi, I know very little people who actually did and I don’t know anyone who owns one now or is likely to buy one in the future either. This brand will most likely slowly fade from the European and will only be missed by few.

    1. There is Lancia the entity and Lancia the construct (one´s idea of what Lancia is). In my version of Lancia the values are to do with austere good taste and attention to engineering detail. It´s not about luxury or beauty though some Lancias have been lovely to behold. The ’87 Galant is plain, serious, well-thought through and sufficient which are part of the Lancia construct.

    2. Hi Freerk, the Sigma and Galant were pretty much the same. The former was just a name applied to the latter in certain export markets, although it’s pretty confusing trying to unravel it all.

      One model I didn’t bother to mention was the Carisma, which was the product of a joint venture with Volvo and a sibling of the original S40. Both were built at the Nedcar plant in The Netherlands. The Carisma name was regarded as deeply ironic as it had no, er, charisma whatsoever. Here it is:

      That was Mitsubishi’s problem. Apart from the L200 and Shogun, its vehicles have been pretty unmemorable. Even the reasonably successful outlander PHEV has a slightly unfortunate tall and narrow stance to my eyes:

    3. They would make amazing getaway cars.

      “And can you describe the car that the thieves were escaped in?”

      “Er….. what car?”

  8. Here’s a link to their heritage page. If you click on the ‘explore’ links, it tells you a bit more about each model.

    It was was an odd experience looking at the page – I couldn’t recall many of the models spontaneously, but recognised them when I saw the pictures. I get the impression that their model strategy has been a bit hit-and-miss. As a brand, they’re completely off my radar.


    We had an Outlander in the early 2010s. It started to develop expensive problems within a few years and so was traded in.

    1. Hi Charles, thanks for the link. I notice that the poor old Carisma has been airbrushed out of Mitsubishi’s history. I also recall that Mitsubishi built the Peugeot 4007 and Citroën C-Crosser versions of the previous(Mk2) generation Outlander. Production of these was originally intended to transfer to the Nedcar facility, but their poor sales never justified this.

    2. Car companies should be up-front about their heritage, even the Pinto. Honesty counts more than sneakiness. Mitsubishi only has to say they hoped for the best but it was a very difficult market, sorry about the silly name. Everyone involved is now encased in concrete in the pillars of a Kyoto flyover or drinking whiskey in retirement.

  9. Mitsubishi has some sort of presence in Brazil, where they licensed production of a few models to a local group. The brand became a synonym of 4×4 capability here, and later the same group started importing and building Suzuki cars as well.

    You mentioned the nice late-1990s Galant VR4 but my favourite Mitsu saloon, hands down, is the early-1990s Diamante, whose hardtop version has all that Lancia appeal and could be had, in Japan, with the same powertrain of a twin-turbo AWD 3000GT:

    1. Hi Eduardo. That is rather nice, a hardtop with frameless door windows. The articulation of the rear door window is interesting. It appears to rotate clockwise as it is being lowered so that it doesn’t foul the rear wheel arch sculpting within the door. It’s a neat solution (and one that Mercedes-Benz could usefully have employed in the current and previous generation E-Class coupé to avoid that nasty fixed rear quarter-light, if they could have been bothered, but weren’t, apparently).

    2. Richard, I am simply awestruck: 1,900 words, on the Mitsubishi Carisma, for goodness sake! Chapeau!

    3. I found Richard’s analysis really interesting. Three things occurred to me when reading it: firstly, the cars the Carisma was competing with were heavily targeted at fleets. I bet Mitsubishi’s fleet presence is practically zero. Does this mean it was meant to be a retail only car? If so, then I would have thought it would have had a limited market.

      Secondly, and related to my first point, Richard mentioned engine choice – I don’t get the impression that they were very strong in diesels, which would have been important, at the time, although less so to retail buyers.

      Lastly, surely someone, somewhere, advised against calling it ‘Carisma’.

    4. Merci, monsieur, mais… did you not already read it long ago? It is a benchmark of forensic market research.
      The dullness of the Carisma is such that I forgot I wrote this and forced Eoin and Sean T to contribute as well.

    5. I can’t recall if I read it – I bet I did, at the time. It was nevertheless worth reading a second time.

      That reminds me of the ship’s computer in Red Dwarf:

      Computer: “Erase my memory of having read Agatha Christie, please”
      Crew: “Done – memory of Agatha Christie’s works has been erased”
      Computer: “Who’s she?”

    6. Joking aside, the Carisma was given a surprisingly effective facelift that brought it more in line with the ‘family look’:

      I bet it was well engineered and reliable, and represented good value second-hand for anyone who didn’t care about its dull image. In similar vein, remember an acquaintance of mine who hadn’t the slightest interest in cars waxing lyrical about her 1990’s Hyundai Accent, which would be a good contender for the dullest car ever built.

  10. Here is the successor to the Diamante model Eduardo mentions above, also rather handsome and not overdone:

  11. Mitsubishi was never up to Toyota’s or Nissan’s standards, but closer to Subaru, in terms of reliability and cabin’s material selection.
    Exceptional were only the Pajero, in durability, and the 1990’s Galland in finesse and cabin luxury. A Benz for the middle class in a way.
    The 2000 and after Galland was sleek in design but horrible everywhere else. A 2003 Subaru Legacy mimic that simply broke apart while driving. Well priced as a grey import soon to be seen more so often by the side of the road with an oily exhaust pipe indicating engine failure.
    Unfortunately Mitsubishi could not hold up to the increasingly higher levels of refinement and reliability of almost everyone else!
    So this is a sad end to a great company, maybe someone can tell us why this actually happened.
    Great article Daniel, only in DTW can someone read about the pride and joy of your next door neighbor, the car you saw him wash and clean every Friday afternoon, getting it ready for the weekend to come.

    1. Thank you, Constantinos, and glad you enjoyed the piece. Reflecting upon Mitsubishi’s decline, I think they were trying to stretch a relatively unknown brand much too far (in Europe at least) having the Colt, Carisma and Galant VR4 all sharing the same badge.

  12. i tried commenting earlier today but it seems its gone straight to the spam filter.

    my first car was a 89 Galant almost identical to the one vr4 Daniel posted earlier, only mine was a 2.0 GLSI.
    i loved that car, and it was perfect for cruising around with my mates, blasting tunes at deafening levels.

    Wish i hadn’t sold it so soon, but after a year with the trusty galant, i was really lusting for a classic mini, so being a poor student the mitsu had to go to pay for it.

    My mothers car at the time was a real nice blue metallic 97 impreza station wagon, so deciding which side of the mitsu/subaru war i was on was real hard, but petter solberg nudged me over in the impreza camp eventually.

    In my opinion, mitsubishi was on a really good flow in the 90s and early 2000s, with lots of nice cars and good styling.
    the pajero, delica, galant, sigma, evos and l200s all looked pretty great, and gave the company a nice vibe even though most people drove around in boring carismas, spacewagons and colts.
    heck, being a van man, i even liked the Grandis when it was released! (especially in purple)

    to bad it all went down hill from there, though i have read rumors that renault/nissan is looking to offload them, now that they are in a pickle of their own.
    i do hope they find a better partner eventually, but i doubt it.

    As for the last gen discussed in the article, the classic car dealer i tasked with selling my r5 GTE last year had a really nice Legnum vr4 sitting in the back, waiting to come of age and become road legal. it rally got my mouth watering, but i had another car in my sights, and refused to be swayed by its temptingly sharky nose and wide hips.

    1. Hi bjarnetv. Thanks for your comment, and for persisting. Your original comment did end up in spam, for some reason. I’ll mark it ‘not spam’ so it will appear, then see if I can work out why it happened.

    2. thanks – i guess you can just delete the old one, as this one is pretty much the same 😉

    3. Ah, I think I’ve worked out why. Would I be right in assuming that your earlier comment was made via a mobile network, but your recent one via a ‘fixed line’ internet access?

    4. nope, but i did post it from my workplace computer, so maybe the IP was marked as suspect because of the amount of computers on the network or something? (i dont know a lot about computer networks and IPs obviously)

    5. No worries. I’ll reply privately to you, if I may.

    6. I wasn’t aware of its existence but I like the look of the Legnum. As a concept it reminds me a bit of the Nissan Stagea V6

    7. The Mitsu estate is very Tokyo-at-night. Perhaps with all that body kit it´s getting too steroidal for me. The Nissan though is delightfully plain.
      Imagine if every film critic judged films by how exciting and action packed they were. Wouldn´t that skew film-making? The proper test is to ask if the car is doing what it seems to be intended to do. Sometimes that´s not very clear and then one can revert to simpler assessments such as is it adequately fast, comfy, roomy etc. This would save a lot of time and repetition. “The Wolseley 34/89 is a standard mid-sized family car. Most of it is unsurprising but we want to focus on the one thing it does well and the three features that are unwelcome. It is cheap. And on the downside it has only one door on the driver´s side, there is no lamp in the boot and fuel consumption is 13% worse than the class leader, the Hillman Proscenium All-Lane”.

    8. I find that most ‘sporting’ bodywork addenda are detrimental to the integrity of the design. The silver Galant/Legnum estate in Laurent’s comment above would look much better without all that clutter:

      It’s actually quite difficult to find a photo of one without side skirts, etc.

    9. The Nissan Stagea really is an exceptionally well-resolved and handsome design. What a shame it never made it to Europe:

  13. If I went to Japan I would be paralysed by all the new cars to be seen. Part of it would be bewilderment – unknown cars and strange versions of them. It would be too much. I´d have to go out for short periods and then try to avoid the streets until I had absorbed things a bit. I am digesting the Stagea now and am also enjoying seeing the 1984 Galant after a long time forgetful of it: as sharp as a Samurai´s Stanley knife.

  14. Since nobody else has mentioned it, I may as well do so. Mitsubishi also started a joint venture with Chrysler and built a brand new factory in the late 1980s in Normal, Illinois USA. it was called DSM, Diamond Star Motors. In those days, Mitsu engines and bits and pieces formed the basis of Hyundai’s first front-drivers, as well as Protons, both essentially Mitsubishis and the company was on a roll. They had also supplied all Chrysler’s import car needs to North America for 20 years by then as well, and were better made than Lee Iacroakah’s domestic pieces of bashed tin.

    I bought one of Mitsu’s first American-made cars as an Eagle Talon AWD turbo in May 1990, but its official name was Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX. Had test-driven both a real used quattro and 944 for the same money. No contest. It introduced the mechanicals/suspension for the Lancer EVOs before Mitsu got around to making those saloons in Japan for the world. Went like the wind. I found it quite good looking with the best-shaped front wings/fenders on any car I’d seen up to that point. It’s not obvious in photos, but I hand-washed it often enough to see the rather sublime 3D subtlety. Made the Audi 80 quattro box shape I owned simultaneously look a bit plain as well as slow, to say the least. If you visit this Wikipedia page, a photo of my car in exact red colour shows up first:


    Chrysler sold out of DSM in 1993, but as you can see, Mitsu made and sold over 150,000 cars per annum for over a decade. We also got mad twin turbo 3 litre V6 3000 GT models and Montero SUVs from Japan, and eventually around 2001 a decided lump of a “new” Galant (also pictured) that really led to a steep decline in sales by about 2004. It was not competitive at all. Must have been our turn for something like a nonentity Carisma, never sold here. Mitsubishi also sold the Lancer saloon (EVO lookalike) for so long it went mouldy and needed a good scraping, not unlike the ancient blue cheeses Dad used to secrete in odd corners of Mum’s giant fridge for years and discover later with joy. Bottom of the market, even exceeding Kia in 2000 to 2010.

    Various semi-competent very slow-selling SUV/CUV crossovers and the very spindly Mirage plus an occasional iMEV (and the Lancer till 2016!) have been the bill of fare at Mitsu dealers here for over a decade. That 2001 scandal really took the wind out of the company’s fortune and sales. From hero to zero. It has became more irrelevant with each passing year, although it has sort of made minor rebounds here and there, based on giving stuff away, really.

    By comparison, Subaru has had a North American increasing sales streak since 2009. They might not suit Europe, but they go gangbusters here, with about 70% of total production sold here. Unfortunately for me, 2009 and later has turned virtually all Subarus into Noddy cars in which I have no interest whatsoever so that I understand the Euro passivity towards them. Which shows enthusiasts are not the people to turn to for a market sales perspective in North America. Mitsu seems to have decided to serve only secondary markets from now on and seems pretty much at the end of the line competing with front line companies. They have only their own bad management to blame for the dire retrenchment.

  15. An interesting article. Thank you.
    Of course Mitsubishi also lent various bits to other manufacturer’s as has been briefly mentioned above.
    In the UK the one that comes to my mind was Proton.
    Dull cars, not the prettiest but the mechanicals were pure Mitsubishi and very robust. I had 4 over the years.
    Well, 3 and a half – I learnt to drive in my dad’s 1.3 MPI, then I had a 1.5 MPI and then a persona and then a gen2.
    All did well over 100k miles and I didn’t have a single significant mechanical fault apart from wear and tear or issues caused by my youthfull exuberance.
    Any parts I ever needed were half the price if I bought the identical Mitsubishi badged item!

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