We recommended that Mitsubishi do this last year, but maybe it was just paralyzed with grief after watching one of its good friends leave the U.S. market.
Suzuki sold its last 6,000 cars here in 2013 and ceded its 0.1% share of the market after none of its vehicles really caught on. That came just after Isuzu, another Japanese automaker and former partner in General Motors' Geo program, vacated the market just a few years ago.
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Mitsubishi, meanwhile, has been watching its sales slide and its presence fade for more than a decade. The former Mitsubishi Motors North America partnership between Chrysler and Mitsubishi once produced vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring at its plant in Normal, Ill. Mitsubishi Motors North America has since been reduced to producing only the Outlander Sport crossover SUV, roughly 60% of which are exported to other countries.
Mitsubishi has killed off its Eclipse, Endeavor and Galant vehicles in recent years and sells only three models in the U.S.: The Lancer compact, the Outlander crossover SUV and new Mirage subcompact. That said, this is a company with something to crow about. The Mirage gets 44 miles per gallon on the highway and is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid sold. In spring, Mitsubishi is reintroducing its newly retooled MiEV electric vehicle that was the cheapest electric car sold in the U.S. when it debuted in 2012. With a 112-miles-per-gallon equivalency, the MiEV seems like a strong low-budget challenge to Tesla and Nissan's Leaf.
The good news for Mitsubishi is that its 7.7% uptick in U.S. sales last year is a huge step in the right direction. The bad news? It still only has a 0.4% share of the U.S. market, tied with Volvo and Mini and ahead of only Porsche (0.3%), Land Rover (0.3%) and Jaguar (0.1). Since it doesn't fetch the premium price of any of the above, it needs a whole lot more exposure if it intends to reach a broader array of drivers.