Mitsubishi to double marketing spend this year, return to prime-time network TV
Mitsubishi sales dropped 27 percent to 57,790 last year in an overall market that grew 13 percent. The company is counting on the new Outlander to revive U.S. sales.
ORLANDO -- Mitsubishi Motors North America executives told dealers at a standing-room-only make meeting here today that it will double its marketing spend this year and return to prime-time network TV after a long absence.
“From June and July, we’re going to push really hard,” said Roger Yasukawa, Mitsubishi spokesman.
The marketing spike will coincide with the arrival of the restyled 2014 Outlander, which will feature a more upscale look and an upgraded interior, he said. “We’re going to be on prime-time TV and we’ll plan to have the highest spend in digital.”
Mitsubishi will return to prime-time network TV for the first time since 2005, Yasukawa said. He declined to say how much Mitsubishi would spend.
Dealers are cautiously optimistic that the move signals that Mitsubishi is committed to remain in the United States. But they want to see more concrete product plans, and Mitsubishi officials offered none.
“For the most part, dealers and the industry need to know Mitsubishi has found bottom. They’re going to make a comeback. We’re going to see product, but no clear plans,” said R.C. Hill, owner of R.C. Hill Mitsubishi in DeLand, Fla.
In 2012 Mitsubishi sales dropped 27 percent to 57,790 in an overall market that grew 13 percent. Mitsubishi’s lineup shrank with the cancellation of the Galant sedan, Endeavor crossover, Eclipse coupe and Spyder convertible.
“I think they’ll come back strong,” said Greg Goldstein of Goldstein Auto Group, which operates a Mitsubishi store in Albany, N.Y.
Hill said dealers were encouraged that the new chairman of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Gayu Uesugi, appeared at the meeting. Dealers were encouraged that Uesugi comes from a product planning background.
He gave a short speech to dealers, reassuring them Mitsubishi has no plans to leave the country.
Asked if dealers were concerned that Mitsubishi would follow Suzuki in its decision to abandon the United States, Hill said dealers were more optimistic after today’s meeting.
“I think that discussion needs to stop about Mitsubishi leaving the country,” Hill said. “It is absolutely not.”
But Hill said dealers need more product.
“We need a mid-size sedan and we need a full-size SUV,” Hill said.
Mitsubishi’s Yasukawa said the brand will build its comeback strategy on two pillars: SUVs and sedans. After the Outlander crossover, a yet-to-be-named subcompact arrives this year. But Mitsubishi did not offer specifics about when or whether the Galant would be replaced. Nor did the company say anything about a full-sized SUV.
Hill said dealers were encouraged that Mitsubishi spent $100 million to retool its Normal, Ill., factory for production of the Outlander Sport.
Mitsubishi dealers have watched their sales decline even as the U.S. industry is enjoying a resurgence.
Said Hill: “On this comeback, we feel like we want to be part of it.”
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