Mitsubishi dealers are starving for more product and will have a tough road ahead until the factory adds new models, possibly starting in 2015.
RC Hill, owner of RC Hill Mitsubishi in DeLand, Fla., and chairman of Mitsubishi's dealer council, says the profitability, sales and fixed operations of Mitsubishi dealers have suffered since its lineup has shrunk to four core products in the last few years.
The brand sells the Outlander and Outlander Sport crossovers, the aging Lancer compact car, the Mirage small car and the i-MiEV electric car. Although sales rebounded last year, gaining 8 percent to 62,227 units, the brand is still far behind the 100,000-plus units it sold annually prior to 2008. Hill says dealers are seeing success and retail sales gains with the Outlander, Outlander Sport and recently introduced Mirage, but more is needed.
"As those core products have entered the market, they've been very competitive, they're priced in the right realm and have a lot to offer, so we're seeing good retail results, just not enough to carry a franchise, quite frankly," Hill said.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. CEO Osamu Masuko addressed speculation that the automaker may seek to pull out of the U.S. market eventually, telling Automotive News late last year that "there is no way we are going to withdraw from the U.S. market."
Masuko says the company plans to return to its traditional strength of making SUVs, but also focus on vehicle electrification.
It wants to bring the next-generation Montero SUV to the United States, and a plug-in hybrid version of that vehicle as well. A plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander is also slated to come to the U.S. market in 2015.
But in the meantime, dealers need more incentive and marketing support , Hill says.
"We as dealers have to push and get it through to them how important it is to have the advertising and support of our products because we have so few of them," Hill said. "In the last few years, there have been some programs that have been quite a bit of help, and it seems like the dialogue is there, but we have to not let up and continue to push and get the manufacturer to support us in this transition period."