Things looked very rosy for Mitsubishi once…back in 2002, its peak year in the United States. By six years later, the automaker saw sales dive by 80 percent. But Mitusubishi thinks it has the formula to succeed again: focusing on crossovers and committing to electric vehicles.
“We’re going to be laser focused on the CUV,” said Ken Konieczka, Mitsubishi’s North American sales chief, at an event in Detroit this week. That was made clear by fresh new versions of the seven-passenger Outlander and five-passenger Outlander Sport, which rolled out in mid-2015. So far, the approach appears to be working, with the company showing its first operating profit in seven years, and a 23 percent increase in year-over-year sales. This has been a good year for auto sales in general, but still, you can see why Mitsubishi is optimistic about its chances.
In Detroit on Thursday, Mitsubishi showed off the 2017 Outlander PHEV, a battery-electric version of the big crossover that has already been successful in Europe. It’s expected to go on sale by late summer here after making its debut at the New York Auto Show in the spring. Reps for the automaker had very few details about the U.S. version—such as price, fuel economy, range—but a quick look at the European model’s specs is encouraging. It boasts thirty-two miles of electric-only range, and 541 combined miles between fill-ups. Compare that with the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, which offers a fifty-three-mile all-electric range and 420 miles between fill-ups. What the Outlander loses in its transition to plug-in hybrid status is its third row of seats. The batteries take up that space, and it becomes a five-seater.
The Outlander is getting bigger, longer, and wider in 2019; Outlander Sport will be smaller in 2020, with an EV variant. An all-new crossover will fit in between.
The Outlander PHEV will go on sale in the United States in late summer, at the same time as the 2017 Outlander and Outlander Sport. Since we know, now, that crossovers are going to be so important to Mitsubishi’s future, it’s good to know that the Outlander is getting bigger, longer, and wider, starting with the 2019 model year, while the Outlander Sport is getting smaller as of the 2020 model year and will have an all-electric version. That leaves room for an all-new crossover in early 2018 that sits between the two. It was previewed in the electric eX Concept shown here, which was introduced at the 2015 Tokyo Auto Show.