NEW ORLEANS -- Mitsubishi, seeking to reassure dealers that the U.S. product drought is abating, laid out plans for exterior enhancements and powertrain options on existing models and mentioned a possible new mid-sized sedan.
Don Swearingen, Mitsubishi Motors executive vice president for North America, told dealers at the make meeting that Mitsubishi Motors is negotiating with Renault SA to source a Renault-based mid-sized sedan to be sold as a Mitsubishi in the United States. The plan was disclosed in November, as part of the expanded alliance between Renault and Mitsubishi.
In an interview before the meeting, Swearingen declined to say when the sedan might arrive because talks with Renault were ongoing. He said the sedan was sorely needed to fill the void left by the canceled Galant sedan.
"We abandoned a huge market, and we have to find a way to fill those customer's needs," Swearingen told Automotive News. "Many of those customers are coming back to market, and we tried to move them into our other offerings, but if they're looking for that D segment sedan, we just don't have it."
RC Hill, owner of RC Hill Mitsubishi in DeLand, Fla., and chairman of the franchise's national dealer advisory board, said dealers were told that the vehicle development project is moving quickly.
"The big takeaway from this meeting is just how fast new product and redesigns are coming now," Hill said outside the meeting. "That's a nice change."
A small sedan based on the Mirage also is under "strong study" for the United States, Swearingen said. Other product updates include adding a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine option for the Outlander Sport, plus a new continuously variable transmission for the 2015 model.
A freshened Outlander also arrives this year.
Swearingen is targeting a 25 percent increase in retail sales in 2014, which would bring the brand to around 70,000 sales in 2014. Mitsubishi cut fleet sales to less than 10 percent of its total 2013 sales but boosted retail sales by 5 percent in the first half and by 21 percent in the second half of last year.
Stacey Gillman Wimbish, CEO of Gillman Cos. auto group in Houston, said dealer reaction to Mitsubishi's product details was positive.
"For dealers, new products never come fast enough," she said. "But Mitsubishi did a good job of showing us that they are committed to delivering product and change and answers." c