2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s Arrival Equals Good News And Bad News

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Image: Mitsubishi>Mitsubishi is by no means starting from scratch in the U.S. market — the product lineup is much too stale for that. But with a new marketing agency, Butler Shine Stern & Partners, coming on board and a new crossover, the Eclipse Cross, set to arrive at dealers soon, Mitsubishi is clearly not in the same position in 2017 that it was in 2009.

2017 is set to be fifth consecutive year in which Mitsubishi’s U.S. volume improves and the first year since 2007 in which Mitsubishi sells more than 100,000 vehicles. That’s still a far cry from 2002, when Mitsubishi sold 345,000 vehicles, but Mitsubishi has reasons to be pleased with the growth.

Perhaps more than any other change at Mitsubishi’s U.S. operations, however, the arrival of the plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander symbolizes a new day for Mitsubishi Motors North America. It is, after all, finally here after years of delay, and it’s an exclusive product for Mitsubishi’s dealers, free from direct competition. Yet while the dawn of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV speaks of further commitment to the U.S. market, it’s not by any means about to become a popular vehicle.

According to Automotive News, Mitsubishi is expecting to sell between 3,000-4,000 plug-in Outlanders per year. For perspective, consider that the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid attracts more than 4,000 U.S. buyers per month.

But Mitsubishi anticipates limited demand for the Outlander PHEV, a relatively popular crossover in many global markets, and will therefore rely upon the model to simply leave an impression. After all, it won’t be long before there will be direct competitors for the plug-in Outlander. “Some of our competitors will be out in the next few years with something similar,” Mitsubishi Motors North America executive vice president Don Swearingen says, “and we want to make sure we make a mark.”

The Outlander PHEV has the potential to excite dealers who’ve lacked unique offerings, even if they won’t be selling the vehicle in large numbers. “We have some dealers that are doing fabulous, and we have some dealers that are a little disengaged,” Swearingen tells Automotive News. Mitsubishi has U.S. dealers that sell 100-200 vehicles per month, the company says, yet the average monthly volume for a Mitsubishi dealer is around 25 units. Yet to date, 15 percent of Mitsubishi’s dealers have not signed on with the necessary chargers and training to be an official Outlander PHEV outlet. Mitsubishi wants all dealers on board, however, as Swearingen considers the plug-in Outlander to be the brand’s new halo model.

While the Outlander PHEV has little potential to boost Mitsubishi’s overall sales volume, Swearingen sees plenty of potential elsewhere. For starters, the Eclipse Cross is landing in the heart of the SUV sector’s growth market. But Mitsubishi could also become more active in the fleet market. Only 11 percent of the vehicles Mitsubishi sells are to fleets, but Swearingen would be content with a retail/fleet mix of 82/18, if only as a means of growing brand awareness.

[Image: Mitsubishi Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

Source : http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/10/2018-mitsubishi-outlander-phevs-arrival-equals-good-news-bad-news/

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