I'm not changing my name to Mitsubishi.
OK, it's not as catchy as "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler," the folk song written and performed by Tom Paxton a quarter century ago when Lee Iacocca & Co. arranged for federal loan guarantees that saved the beleaguered automaker.
The gist of the song was summed up in the chorus:
"I am changing my name to Chrysler.
I am going down to Washington, D.C.
I will tell some power broker
'What you did for Iacocca,
Would be perfectly acceptable to me.'
I am changing my name to Chrysler.
I am leaving for that grand receiving line,
And when they hand a million grand out,
I'll be standing with my hand out.
Yes, sir, I'll get mine."
Mitsubishi doesn't deserve a handout from Washington. Or Tokyo. The parent Mitsubishi group has quite appropriately been the deep pocket, at least so far.
Twenty-five years ago, Chrysler's dire situation was exacerbated by tough economic times, though product, marketing blunders and a near-fatal underestimation of Japanese competition were underlying factors. But what justified the bailout was that if Chrysler collapsed, a chunk of the U.S. economy would have been dragged down with it. And everyone at Chrysler sacrificed something to make it happen.
Mitsubishi's tailspin was caused by pilot error, here and in Japan. And the company and its stakeholders have suffered.
Many people are pessimistic about Mitsubishi's outlook. They think Mitsubishi has about as much chance of surviving as 10-to-1 underdog James J. Braddock had of beating Max Baer 70 years ago. Even those who think Mitsubishi will make it don't expect anything as dramatic as that upset victory.
It's a grim tale of the tape. Globally, Mitsubishi lost $4.4 billion in its fiscal year ended March 31. More losses are expected. In the United States, Mitsubishi sales were off 30.5 percent in May and 34.8 percent for the first five months of the year.
There are new products in the pipeline, which should help Mitsubishi get up off the canvas. But just as the 2006 Eclipse was hurried to market a few weeks ago, the company discovered a potential safety flaw that could have lead to brake failure.
Yet that seemingly staggering blow might be a sign that things have changed. Unlike the mess in Japan, where company officials concealed safety defects, Mitsubishi attacked the problem, briefly halted sales of the 2006 Eclipse and sent technicians directly to the homes of customers who already had made their purchase.
No bobbing. No weaving. It was simply an effective counterpunch.
Maybe I'm just a sap who has a soft spot for underdogs, but that seems like it could be a turning point.
That's not to say that Mitsubishi will pull a Braddock, or even a Chrysler. But at least it gives Mitsubishi Motors North America CEO Rich Gilligan something to build on.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at