Long-suffering Mitsubishi dealers, who are just starting to see benefits from the brand's two-year membership in the alliance with Renault and Nissan, now worry that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' proposed merger with the French automaker could distract from their U.S. survival plan.
The inclusion of a local heavyweight such as FCA could cast uncertainty over the future of the diminutive Japanese marque in the U.S., where Jeep and Ram are among the hot brands. And retailers said they worry about focus shifting from the Mitsubishi turnaround plan that many have embraced.
Still, the dealers also expressed optimism that their faded but storied marque can fill a niche in the alliance if an FCA-Renault merger becomes a reality. They are, after all, Mitsubishi dealers, who have survived a decadelong arc of declining sales even as the overall market hit record highs.
"I feel like the FCA-Renault announcement does cause some dealer anxiety, because we wonder who will control the franchise's direction," said RC Hill, a DeLand, Fla., Mitsubishi dealer for 15 years. "Currently, our U.S. Mitsubishi leadership seems very focused on getting things done in our market. Plus, we will see our first alliance vehicle next spring, which is very exciting for Mitsubishi dealers," he said.