Mitsubishi mulls Mirage for U.S. market
TOKYO -- Mitsubishi's new Mirage small car has some nifty attributes. And it should.
The hatchback is a linchpin of the company's global comeback plan. It also could be a sorely needed addition to Mitsubishi's product-deprived U.S. lineup.
Mitsubishi aims to sell 200,000 Mirages globally this fiscal year and expand worldwide production capacity to 500,000 including a plant in Thailand and possibly a new plant in China.
The Thai-built car goes on sale Aug. 31 in Japan and will be rolled out next in Europe, Asia and Australia. But President Osamu Masuko is waffling on whether to send it stateside.
On one hand, it is positioned as a global small car that should appeal to mature markets as well as developing ones. On the other, it might be too small for American tastes.
"I've heard some market voices say this kind of car would sell well," Masuko said at a launch event last week in Tokyo. "But we're still assessing whether Americans will accept it."
The 1.0-liter, three-cylinder Mirage would compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Spark just below a compact segment already crowded by such rivals as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. While the cars are fuel efficient, sales are highly sensitive to gasoline prices.
Under Japan's testing cycle, the Mirage delivers the equivalent of 64 mpg. Mitsubishi bills it as Japan's most efficient gasoline-powered car. Still no word on an EPA rating.
In Japan, it starts at ¥998,000, or roughly $12,548. That is higher than the U.S. price for the Nissan Versa, an entry-car benchmark at $11,770, including shipping. But if the Mirage goes to the United States, the sticker could be whittled down from a direct yen-dollar conversion.
One potential problem: The Mirage's plain styling may be its biggest drawback.
Says Masuko: "We have to make a decision soon, but we are still studying."
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