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