TOKYO — Both Mazda and Mitsubishi are struggling to elevate their brand images, and both are now banking on ritzier dealerships in the U.S. to help them move upmarket.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. kicked off its retail overhaul July 4, saying it will introduce a new exterior and interior design for 5,000 stores worldwide in the next six years.
The push already has started in the U.S. with two dealerships, one in Huntington, W.Va., the other in Lewisville, Texas. Those upgrades will be finished by this fall, and Mitsubishi expects to get at least 25 of its 354 U.S. dealerships redesigned by the end of March 2019.
"The intent is to ensure consistent image of all outlets globally and enhance customer satisfaction," Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said last month while previewing the campaign to shareholders in Tokyo. "This will help further instill our brand in the markets."
Mitsubishi's campaign mirrors an upgrade that Mazda Motor Corp. started in 2016 and plans to accelerate through 2021. In fact, the similarities go right down to the colors: Mitsubishi's new color scheme is black, white and gray—Mazda's is black, white and silver.
Renderings of the new Mitsubishi look show a sleek black dealership with a diagonal "Dynamic Slope" signature element across the facade. Inside, a black and white motif lends a modern, technical ambiance evoking the brand's new ambitions in electrified vehicles.
Mazda's proposed look also goes heavy on black, but gets wood trim for a warm, natural feel.
The common goal is to imbue the brands with a more premium air, replacing bright-and-shiny with cool- and-sophisticated.