Mitsubishi Motors plots its comeback, and here is the plan

Osamu Masuko in Tokyo (c) Bertel Schmitt

According to widely-held Silicon Valley belief, it is impossible to turn a lumbering old legacy carmaker around. Alright, watch Osamu Masuko. He is the CEO of a 100-year-old Japanese carmaker named Mitsubishi Motors, and today, he announced the company’s “V-shaped recovery” at MMC’s HQ in Tokyo

The company fell into disrepute last year for having (like so many others) fudged fuel economy readings. Sales sagged. Nissan promptly bought a controlling interest in the company for a $2.3 billion song. (Attn. Silicon Valley: This is what a million-unit carmaker operating in the real world outside of the distortion field truly goes for.) The Mitsubishi purchase propelled the Renault-Nissan Alliance (now renamed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance) to the top of all global automakers. Now is the time to turn the company around.

Basically, the plan calls for a 40% increase in sales, and a 30% increase in revenue by fiscal 2019 (which ends March 31 2020.)

“How will they do that?” asked @happy_roman via Twitter. @happy_roman once managed PR and later Marketing at Skoda, therefore, professional courtesy, and an explanation are extended.

The detailed steps of the plan were presented by a forceful Trevor Mann, who is COO at Mitsubishi Motors, and a Nissan transplant. The plan calls for 11 new models to be released during the three-year plan. In terms of EVs, the plan lists a new EV, a kei-car EV, and a new generation of the Outlander plug-in hybrid.

We were told today not to expect any cars on joint Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi platforms before 2020, because that’s how long things take.

CAPEX and R&D will be raised to a total of some 11% of net revenue, in-line with what other OEMs spend on their future.

The biggest growth in unit shipments is expected from the ASEAN and Australia/NZ markets, where, way below the radar of first-world media attention,  Mitsubishi Motors is quite strong. MMC’s position in populous Indonesia for instance is so dominating that LMC Automotive today blamed a 6% drop in August Indonesian passenger vehicle registrations on people waiting for delivery of their Mitsubishi Xpander, a 4WD MPV that was launched at the Jakarta auto show in the same month.

North America and China are seen as strategic markets by Mitsubishi. Sales in NA are scheduled to rise 32% by fiscal 2019. Deliveries in China are planned to more than double, powered by a localized Outlander, Mitsubishi’s new Eclipse Cross, and a dealer network twice the size of the 200 outlets today.  

As for Mitsubishi’s further direction, COO Trevor Mann eulogized the company’s long heritage in both 4WD and EV. Mitsubishi made SUVs long before the term was coined. It started to produce the venerable Willy’s Jeep in 1953, and it continued making the CJ-3B long after it was put to pasture back home in 1968. The Dakar-winning Pajero is still on peoples’ minds. Mitsubishi was a first-mover with electric cars. In 2009, MMC’s electrified kei-car, the i-Miev, did beat Nissan’s Leaf to market by a year. MMC built the plug-in hybrid Outlander SUV that leads the sales charts in Japan and Europe. 

SUVs and crossovers are the hot market segments, and what EVs still lack in market share, they have gained in share of mind. Everything seems to be aligning for Mitsubishi Motors, for a change.

The Wall Street Journal was visibly impressed by Mann and the plan, as its choice of headline confirms.