When most of us think of Mitsubishi in the U.S., we think of the old days: the Lancer, the Evo, the Galant VR-4, the 3000GT, the Eclipse. Then, we remember that the Eclipse became a crossover, and we’re snapped back to reality with a harsh realization that everything is practical and sad these days.
As crossovers and SUVs squeeze out smaller, sportier cars in most car lineups, particularly in the U.S., a lot of the focus has been on Ford’s extreme bet to axe small cars except the Mustang in North America. But Mitsubishi, while a smaller company, has been far more drastic with all of it—turning its entire lineup into bulky vehicles. That’s aside from the Mirage, the lone small car left that comes in a sedan or hatchback and is at the bottom of Mitsubishi’s price spectrum.
Something had to happen to make Mitsubishi completely alter how it does cars in more than just North America, though, and it was more than the “small cars bad, SUVs good” attitude of current new-car buyers. It’s that, plus the fact that Mitsubishi doesn’t think it has the room to focus on much more than one type of vehicle as a small automaker.
Car Throttle asked the managing director of Mitsubishi UK, Rob Lindley, all about the company’s trajectory from performance to mainstream practicality at the Geneva Motor Show, and his answer was simple:
“Mitsubishi’s focus is now SUVs, crossover, four-wheel drive, along with alternative fuel technology,” he said, adding “Mitsubishi has moved around different brand positionings, whether it’s been Spacestar style vehicles or sports car derivatives, Evo - it’s not had that clarity of focus.”
The inexplicable shift towards heavy, high-riding vehicles does still seem to leave a small space for sports cars, evidenced by the retention of the Mustang and also examples like Mitsubishi’s Japanese competitor Toyota, which recently reintroduced the Supra. Then there’s Honda, which, having abandoned fast cars for years, brought back the Civic Type R and the NSX. So surely it’s feasible for Mitsubishi to pull off the same trick? The answer is no, sadly.
“As a business that sells 1.2 million cars worldwide, in a global sense, it’s not a big business. If you try and be in all the different segments of the market and follow trends, like sports cars, it would be difficult to be economically viable,” Lindley explains.
Lindley told Car Throttle he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that Mitsubishi has such a performance- and enthusiast-oriented past compared to its modern SUV reality, since having an established company fanbase is good when “those type of customers drive other vehicles as well.” Lindley also said the SUV market is a fitting place for the company, considering its history with four-wheel drive.
So, no, your dream from last night about the Lancer returning to the market in spectacular fashion—except in China and Taiwan, where it still exists—wasn’t an omen. Mitsubishi’s doing SUVs for the long run, because SUVs sell.