Mitsubishi Motors North America is adding dealers this year as the automaker tries to regain lost ground.
The company hopes to sign up 25 dealers this year, says Joe Delello, Mitsubishi's director of franchise development. The current roster of 424 dealers is down from 575 five years ago.
"We're looking to add dealers in targeted markets," Delello says. The recruiting is largely focused on major metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Washington.
"These are open points where we believe there will be sufficient units in operation for service business," he says. "These are not buy-sells."
Mitsubishi has been a shrinking brand in recent years. Sales fell from 261,254 in 1999 to 53,986 last year. For three years, the company has been regrouping to devise a new-product strategy. That new strategy of focusing on smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles now is emerging.
At the company's exhibit at the recent National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, representatives talked to potential dealers. Mitsubishi displayed the small new i-MiEV electric car, which will come to the United States along with a gasoline-powered version.
Scott Grove, a Chicago area Mitsubishi dealer and chairman of the Mitsubishi National Dealer Advisory Board, said the brand needs more stores in some markets where dealerships have closed in recent years. He said the factory is being cautious about whom it enlists as new dealers.
"We are not in boom growth," Grove said. "We will make better decisions on where we approve points."