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Mitsubishi Is Quietly Becoming a Crossover Brand

When you think of Mitsubishi, you most likely think of cars like the exciting Lancer Evo, the laughably cheap Mirage or the performance cars of the past like the Eclipse and the 3000GT. And maybe, just maybe, you think about the Outlander crossover — if you can manage to remember that it exists.

But a major transformation is happening at Mitsubishi. The scrappy little Japanese brand is quietly becoming a crossover builder. That’s right: a brand once known for fun little sports cars is getting in on the crossover craze — and whether we like it or not, it’s working out really well for them.

2017 was an okay-but-not-great year for car sales. A lot of luxury brands posted record sales, but mainstream brands struggled. Mitsubishi, however, was the fastest growing non-luxury car brand of 2017 in the U.S. — and it’s all because of the Outlander, whose sales were up a whopping 32.9 percent over 2016. Your aunt probably bought one last year and you didn’t even notice. Overall, the brand saw 7.7 percent growth in a year when overall car sales were down 1.8 percent.

Go ahead and check Mitsubishi’s website. When you click on "Vehicles," not only do crossovers come up before cars, but the only actual cars in the 2018 Mitsubishi lineup are limited the Mirage and the Mirage G4 — which barely counts as a second car because it’s just a Mirage sedan. The Outlander and Outlander Sport might not be anything exciting, but they’re saving the Mitsubishi brand, at least in the U.S.

But that’s not all for Mitsubishi crossovers. Mitsubishi also has the Outlander PHEV, which, somehow, is one of only two non-luxury plug-in hybrid crossovers on the market, the other one being the Kia Niro PHEV. The Outlander PHEV is a hit in Europe, where it recently hit 100,000 sales. That was enough to convince the brand to bring the hybrid crossover to the States.

What about future Mitsubishi models? Isn’t there a Lancer replacement in the works? Not that Mitsubishi has announced, or even hinted at publicly. The only new model currently planned for production is the Eclipse Cross, which is coming out later this year. I apologize for reminding you, but the Eclipse name is, indeed, returning to the Mitsubishi lineup — not as a sporty coupe, but as … a crossover. I hate to admit it, but the Eclipse Cross does look kind of cool, as far as crossovers go. Eclipse Cross GSX, anyone?

Mitsubishi was in a tough spot where it needed to really boost its North American presence or pull out of this lucrative market altogether. It bet it all on crossovers, and it’s winning (and getting bought out by Nissan didn’t hurt, either). At this point, why would Mitsubishi make any new models other than crossovers? I think in the next few years we’ll see a few automakers exclusively become crossover brands as sedans die off — and I believe Mitsubishi will be one of them. Find a Mitsubishi for sale

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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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  1. I miss the Mitsubishi’s of the 80’s and 90’s – the Starion, Diamante (sedan AND wagon), Galant VR4, 3000GT, Eclipse, original Lancer Evolution — the only one I’ve loved in recent decades would be the Evo. Otherwise, Mitsubishi should just go defunct. 

    Their new crossovers look cheap – and the one above unfortunately looks like a watered-down copy of the latest Lexus RX.
  2. If they use their earnings from the crossover market to subsidize (even if slowly) a new sports car of some caliber (Lancer, 3000GT, etc), then it might be worth the blandness. It’s happened before (and is starting to happen) with other exciting brands.

    I’m not exactly holding my breath either.
  3. Mitsubishi are “quietly” becoming a crossover maker? They crashed and burned themselves into this crossover-shaped hole.
    Mitsubishi are not doing well here in Europe. In Scotland, where I live, the only people who buy Mitsubishi’s are driving schools (who like the Mirage), people who want a Prius but want to feel big (who like the Outlander PHEV), and Police Scotland, who also have the Outlander PHEV as a (rather ineffective) highway police vehicle. By building cars which appeal only to these people, they at are losing out on sales. There is also the L200 pick-up in Europe, but pick-ups in Europe are only bought by farmers.

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