NEW ORLEANS -- Add Mitsubishi to the long list of automakers projecting higher U.S. sales in 2017, even as executives acknowledge the overall market likely will be flat at best.
Executives are projecting sales of at least 100,000 vehicles for the first time since 2007. To do that, the brand would have to post at least a 3.9 percent increase from the 96,267 vehicles it sold last year.
"They have a pretty good plan to do it," said Spencer Young, owner of Young Automotive Group in Layton, Utah. "I don't think they'll have trouble getting there."
Dealers will get even more help in 2018, when a highly anticipated new crossover is scheduled to go on sale.
At Mitsubishi's make meeting at the NADA convention here, dealers saw photos of the vehicle, which will fit between the Outlander and Outlander Sport in the lineup. The company plans to show the vehicle publicly -- and announce its name -- at the Geneva auto show in March, said Don Swearingen, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America.
Swearingen told dealers they can begin ordering the vehicle in early fall and start getting shipments around January.
Even before it arrives, he said profitability of the brand's dealership network is at its highest level in about 15 years.
"Dealers are saying that we are building programs that support our dealer body," Swearingen told Automotive News. "We missed [100,000] by just a couple thousand units last year. We clearly expect to hit it this calendar year."
Many dealers who attended the make meeting expressed enthusiasm about Nissan Motor Co.'s acquisition of a controlling stake in Mitsubishi last fall and the installation of its CEO, Carlos Ghosn, as Mitsubishi's chairman.
Joe Bizzarro, chairman of the brand's national dealer advisory board, said it's too early to say exactly how Nissan's involvement will help Mitsubishi dealers but that everyone is excited to have the big automaker's support.
"Everyone who knows Mitsubishi has great confidence in the brand," Bizzarro said. "Joining with Nissan is only going to be a big positive."
Swearingen said the dealer advisory board already has submitted requests for new products from Nissan, chiefly a pickup and a replacement for the Lancer. He said Mitsubishi would study them seriously.