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The Mitsubishi Outlander Is Holding Up The Whole Company

Sales tripled in the U.S. and made Mitsubishi profitable worldwide

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Photo: Raphael Orlove

I am always intrigued when a single successful model pretty much props up an entire automaker. What’s surprising is our newest one — the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander — is a thought experiment of “what if we made the cheapest and ugliest car possible... but with three rows of seating?” All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 31, 2022.

1st Gear: Mitsubishi Is The Outlander Now

The three-row Nissan Rogue with a Range Rover-lookalike body has been selling remarkably well, no surprise to anyone who has driven one. What’s funny is that it’s basically propping up Mitsubishi as a company at this point. From Automotive News:

The Japanese automaker booked operating profit of 30.7 billion yen ($266.7 million) in the fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, reversing an operating loss of 4.1 billion yen ($35.6 million), the automaker said in a statement on Monday.[...]Global retail sales climbed 12 percent to 245,000 vehicles in the quarter, driven by robust demand in North America and Southeast Asia, despite tepid deliveries in Japan and Europe.Revenue increased 39 percent to 525.5 billion yen ($4.57 billion) in the three months.North American retail sales surged in the quarter to 40,000 vehicles, from 24,000 the year before, as Mitsubishi cashed in on the popularity of its redesigned Outlander crossover.North American regional sales of the nameplate more than doubled over the first nine months of the year to 39,300 units, CFO Koji Ikeya said while announcing the financial results.


It’s easy to clown on the Outlander as being ugly and cheap, but somehow it sneaks its way into your heart. The crossover has a particular charm, and after a weekend with it, I was ready to declare it handsome. Maybe I’m not alone.

2nd Gear: Tata Motors Down

Oddly, what must be the most SUV/crossover-oriented carmaker out there is struggling, as Bloomberg reports:

Tata Motors Ltd., the Indian owner of Jaguar Land Rover, posted a quarterly loss as the global semiconductor shortage continued to hit production at home and at its British luxury unit.

The company posted a loss of 15.2 billion rupees ($204 million) for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with a 29.1 billion-rupee profit in the same period a year earlier. JLR reported a deficit of 9 million pounds ($12 million) before tax during the quarter, versus a profit of 439 million pounds last year, Tata Motors said in a statement to stock exchanges Monday.

The semiconductor shortage will likely ripple through 2022 and gradually improve as capacity within the supply base increases, Tata Motors said. Jaguar Land Rover is working with first-tier suppliers and chip manufacturers to secure longer term supply, it added.


3rd Gear: Mazda Restarts American Production

Long after leaving Ford and Flat Rock, Mazda is back to making cars in the U.S. as Automotive News reports:

Mazda returned to making cars in the U.S. last week with a new model designed specifically for the local market, the CX-50 crossover, and a commitment to electrifying its vehicles with joint-venture partner Toyota.

The first production CX-50 — with Mazda North America CEO Jeff Guyton on board — rolled off the line at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala., to applauding workers. The compact crossover goes on sale in the spring.


Mazda last assembled vehicles in the U.S. a decade ago with then-partner Ford Motor Co. in Flat Rock, Mich. Mazda ended production of the Mazda6 sedan at the plant in 2012 amid weak sales and red ink from its North American operations. The automaker opened a Mexico plant in 2014.

Not involved in Mazda’s production this time around: union representation.

4th Gear: Oil Prices Up For, Again, The Worst Reasons

Good news for oil producers is pretty much always bad news for everyone else. “Rising geopolitical tension and demand send oil price outlook soaring” is how Reuters put it. Bloomberg was a bit more keen to obfuscate the reality of the matter with “Oil Set for Strongest January in Decades as Market Tightens.” The news itself, per B’Berg:

Traders were greeted Monday with a familiar set of drivers, from the weather to stockpiles. Low temperatures in the U.S. have been boosting demand for fuels, as Boston reported a daily snow record and New York’s Central Park received more than 8 inches. Oil infrastructure in Ecuador was damaged by a rock slide, potentially endangering supply. Meanwhile, oil held on tankers fell by more than 20% last week, the latest sign of ebbing inventories.

That combination of booming demand, scratchy supply and dwindling stockpiles has helped crude soar this month, with top banks and oil companies saying prices may soon pass $100 a barrel.

While the advance has gained extra support as Russia amasses troops near Ukraine, it also has been compounded by the inability of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to meet planned supply output increases. The OPEC+ alliance gathers Wednesday to assess the market.


Ah, to be invested in oil, and to cheer on global chaos.

5th Gear: Please Enjoy This Article Noting That Regulations Forcing Automakers To Build Cleaner Cars May Force Automakers To Build Cleaner Cars

Meanwhile, I very much relished reading this article in Automotive News noting that automakers may be switching to more hybrids and EVs because the government is mandating they pollute less. From “A turning point in the transition to EVs? Tougher EPA rules may be the catalyst”:

Faced with the challenge of meeting the EPA’s more stringent limits on vehicle tailpipe emissions, U.S. automakers soon will determine how much — and how quickly — electric vehicles will be part of their compliance strategies.

The EPA, led by Michael Regan, in December finalized a tougher-than-expected rule on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions for the 2023 through 2026 model years that could act as a regulatory driver for speeding up the industry’s electrification plans.

Under the final rule, which is more stringent than the agency’s August proposal and the Obama-era requirements, emissions standards increase between about 5 and 10 percent each model year. The standards mandate an industrywide target of 161 grams of carbon dioxide per mile — or 40 mpg on window stickers — by the 2026 model year.


Regulations... work? Who knew!

Reverse: F1's Most Powerful Goatee

Jo Bonnier was born on this day in 1930. From his autobiography:

Joakim “Jo” Bonnier was born on January 31, 1930, as one the heirs of the famous Swedish publishing family Bonnier. Instead of joining the family’s tradition, he pursued his dream and became Sweden’s first professional racing car driver and eventually one of our brightest stars within the sport.


Neutral: East Coasters — How Sideways Were You?

My VW is in the shop and, as such, I had to go ride my bike around in the snow as opposed to powersliding around the abandoned airport in my borough. How did you fare this snowy weekend?