This is a tale of two hatchbacks, one of which won practically every magazine award possible, the other... is a car that would make most of you want to take the bus. As great as the GTI is, Volkswagen still can't outsell what is arguably one of the saddest companies in the American market, Mitsubishi.
According to Tim Cain over at The Truth About Cars, the Mitsubishi Mirage sold 1863 units in February. That is a 67 percent improvement from last year and pretty damn impressive for a 74 horsepower hatchback that for all intents and purposes is the definition of the "penalty box" cliché often used by auto-journos.
The award winning Volkswagen GTI on the other hand sold a measly 1779 units in the same month. Granted with a starting price of $13,805 you could almost buy two Mirages for the same price of a base four-door GTI at $26,205. These are very different cars with very different target markets. The Mitsubishi is for folks that want basic transportation for the cheapest price possible, and absolutely must have a new car. I don't think I need to explain to Jalopnik readers who the GTI is for.
It seems the old children's tale of the tortoise and the hare rings true even in auto sales, the slow and steady Mirage takes the sales crown from the the quick Golf GTI (Rabbit).. I'm so sorry for that punny analogy.
This speaks to a larger issue. How does a cash strapped company like Mitsubishi with a dwindling dealer network, manage to out-sell what is arguably the best car in VW's lineup? Is this just fluke side-effect of record sales industry wide, or is it yet another example of Volkswagen's failure to be successful in America?
It is important to look at the larger context. The Mirage also out sold popular cars such as the Audi A4, Lexus GS, and Mercedes S class.
(chart via GoodCarBadCar.net)
One of the commenters on the TTAC article pointed out the Mirage benefits from fleet and rental sales and if you look at the total sales between both the Golf (1629 units) and GTI (1779 units), VW managed to move 3408 hatchbacks. Also, sub-prime and extended loans (longer than 60 months) are at record levels. This allows more buyers that would normally be forced into the used market, to be able to afford a new car. A $14k Mirage for 72 months at 5 percent interest works out to be around $225 per month.
The Mirage looks to be a success for Mitsubishi, at least in the short term. As long as rates stay low, the struggling automaker should continue to post strong numbers for the little hatchback. But it is still a relatively low profit vehicle and if Mitsubishi hopes to remain alive the American market for much longer, they will have to replicate that success with something bigger. In the meantime you people need to buy more GTIs.
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.