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The Mitsubishi Endeavor Was a Flop of Aztek-Like Proportions

Do you ever see an unusual vehicle in traffic and think, “huh, now there’s a car that I completely forgot existed?” Well, it happened to me recently, and the subject was the Mitsubishi Endeavor. In fact, I almost forgot the name of this vehicle. I just remembered it as that one Mitsubishi SUV from the 2000s that isn’t a Montero or an Outlander. Then I was reminded what it was called when I noticed the name “ENDEAVOR” in big, chunky letters across the chrome strip on the lift gate. I think the font is smaller on the space shuttle bearing the same name than it is on the Mitsubishi SUV.

So what is this forgotten SUV? Was it one of Mitsubishi’s rebadging efforts from that era, like the Raider pickup truck? No, this baby was all Mitsubishi right down to its bones. It was the first vehicle in Mitsubishi’s effort called “Project America,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It was a bold initiative with the goal of designing and building cars specifically for the U.S. market without worrying about accommodating any other markets. The Endeavor was even built here in the States at Mitsubishi’s now defunct plant in Normal, Illinois.

The Endeavor rode on Mitsubishi’s PS platform, which also underpinned the final generations of both the Galant sedan and the Eclipse coupe. The Endeavor came standard with a V6 making 225 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. It also came standard with front-wheel drive and had optional all-wheel drive. This sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because what I’m describing is pretty much all anybody wants in the current automotive climate. A midsize, car-based crossover with FWD or AWD and a standard V6. The Endeavor’s debut model year was 2004, making it a little ahead of its time as a precursor to the crossover craze. So it should’ve been a hit, right?

Not even close. Mitsubishi had big plans for the Endeavor and thought it was going to be the car that would make Mitusbishi a mainstream brand in the lucrative U.S. market and compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota. Mitsubishi was planning on selling 80,000 Endeavors to SUV-hungry Americans every year. The Endeavor’s best year was its first year, but it didn’t even hit half of that number. And it only went downhill from there. From 2005 on, the Endeavor never even moved 20,000 units per year, and in its later days, it struggled to sell even 5,000 per year. Those are pretty miserable numbers for what was actually a pretty positively reviewed crossover that fit the mold of exactly what American buyers wanted at the time.

So, why was the Mitsubishi Endeavor such a massive flop? For starters, it had some pretty tough competition. It came out around the same time as the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander, which both had third-row seating. This wasn’t an option in the Endeavor. We also need to talk about the look of the vehicle. Its styling was, shall we say, unconventional? Okay, this thing is just plain ugly. It’s oddly proportioned and has a face only a mother could love, and Americans decided they’d rather have a boring-looking crossover than a really ugly one. The Endeavor received two facelifts in its life — one in 2006 and another in 2010 — but they didn’t help its lousy sales numbers in any meaningful way, so its final model year was 2011.

If this sounds like a familiar story, it’s because it’s very similar to the tale of the infamous Pontiac Aztek. The Aztek was another unibody, FWD crossover that was ahead of its time but was a total flop compared to its manufacturer’s optimistic projections. They were both hideous, but they weren’t bad cars. One big difference is that the flop of the Aztek played at least a small role in the demise of its entire brand, which proves that Mitsubishi — shockingly — was a more resilient brand than Pontiac.

So, if you like the idea of the practicality of a midsize crossover but don’t want to drive something that everyone else is driving, consider the ill-fated Mitsubishi Endeavor — if you’re not as offended by its aesthetic as I am. Find a Mitsubishi Endeavor for sale

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  1. As of today my 04 silver endeavor LS is almost at 190,000 miles. Transmission is still alright and is showing signs of faults from the factory as 2-3rd gear flairs and jerking lightly on flat ground (even worse on hills). Over all its lived is current parts life cycles maintenance wise. The paint used on all 04 endeavors that were silver were the only ones that had clear coat issues causeing my whole car but the hood to basically peel to bare paint. around 160,000 miles one of the front bearings started to show wear and needed replaced. 170,000 the other front bearing and starter went out. Within the 190,000 its had 2 alternators aswell. Overall I love the look and fell when I drive it till the back stuts are going bad at 178,000 miles. Cars had one previous owner till 22,000 miles and ever sense 2005 its been in my family and maintained personally by my family. Would love to have more current generation endeavors but sadly as posted above 2011 was the last year. From what I heard by machanics the main issue with these cars being seen as bad is poor drivers and others not maintaining them.

  2. I have a 2004 Endeavor and I love it.It rides as good as the day I brought it.I had no problems with it.I wish they would the Endeavor back.

  3. Mitsubishis of this era were suffering from a poor reliabilty reputation. Whether that rep was deserved or not, it hurt sales across the board and contributed greatly to Mitsu’s slide in the USDM. I remember the company I worked for at the time had several ’04 Galants and Endeavors as company cars, and three of them had spun bearings before they hit 10k miles. It looked bad to us and I stayed away from them as a result, but I never talked to anyone else who had the same problem. Thinking back, it could have been the manufacturer’s fault, or it could have been poor fleet maintenance. Still, I remember a lot of people lamenting that Mitsubishis weren’t as good as they had been in the 90’s.

  4. I don’t think it looks too bad. No it’s not a beauty, but you definitely do a lot worse. And it’s still a Mitsubishi, so you get a reliable automobile. I’d prefer a galant or Montero over this tho

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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