Few other car manufacturers have had such a mixed bag of success and botch as Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.
From their legendary achievements in motorsport through the 1970s to the new millennium in the World Rally Championship and Paris Dakar, further highlighting their Lancer Evolution and Shogun models, to the more forgettable offerings such as the limp Carisma and tasteless first-generation Mirage-based Colt.
In the last decade, like other manufacturers, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation has been forced to adapt to stricter CO2 emissions regulations and rising fuel prices. One way the Japanese car firm has achieved this is by investing in their Research and Development, in order to develop new technologies and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
An example of this is MMC’s launch of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) in 2009. The first mass-produced, zero-emission, full electric vehicle, the i-MiEV was powered by a 63bhp permanent magnet synchronous motor mounted on the rear axle. With a top speed of 80mph and a range of 80-100 miles, Mitsubishi have sold more than 33,000 i-MiEV’s worldwide to date.
Another model that showcases Mitsubishi’s adaptability with the current economic climate is the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. A plug-in hybrid crossover SUV, it’s driven by two 80bhp electric motors for each axle and are identical to the motors found in the i-MiEV.
The rear motor produces a peak torque of 144 lb ft from zero rpm and the front motor up to 101 lb ft. The power can last for up to 34 miles of battery range from just a four-hour 240v charge from a mains supply. When drive from the electric motor is used up, the 2.0-litre petrol engine will come into play.
In 2006, Mitsubishi reported its first profitable quarter in four years and returned to consistent profitability at the end of that year, sustaining this from 2007 onwards.
However, in 2012 with operating losses of $US287 million solely in Europe, due to stagnant sales and a rampant debt crisis, in February 2012 Mitsubishi decided to withdraw production in Europe at the end of 2012. On October 1 that year, Dutch industrial giant VDL Groep had taken over NedCar from Mitsubishi, retaining all 1,500 employees.
Purely in terms of current sales, Mitsubishi Motors is establishing itself as the UK’s fastest growing brand. The manufacturer has announced a 49.61 per cent increase on year-to-date figures on last year, with the supermini Mirage and Outlander SUV exceeding sales targets.
The Mirage city car has sold over 100,000 examples worldwide to date, while the latest third-generation Outlander has sold in excess of 1,000 units since deliveries started in July 2013.
The L200 continues to spearhead the pick-up market, with a 23.4 per cent market share year-to-date.
The car maker expects sales growth to continue with forecasted increases of around 20 per cent per year for the next four years – a combination of new products, increased marketing and growth of the Mitsubishi dealer network.
With Mitsubishi celebrating a 40th anniversary of presence in Europe, can the brand re-vitalise themselves further and produce more appealing designs and hit the 50-year milestone?