Richard Herod III, incoming chairman of the Mitsubishi National Advisory Board, says U.S. dealers look forward to more vehicles developed jointly by Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault, following up on the successful launch in 2021 of the redesigned 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander, on a shared platform with the Nissan Rogue.
Herod, 44, is managing partner at White Bear Mitsubishi in White Bear Lake, Minn. He is vice chairman of the dealer board; his term as chairman begins during the 2022 NADA Show.
Mitsubishi Motors North America had a successful sales year in 2021, despite low new-vehicle inventory late in the year because of the industrywide computer-chip shortage and other problems with the supply chain.
U.S. sales were 102,037 in 2021, up 17 percent from 2020. Since 2007, the brand has topped 100,000 U.S. sales four times — in 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2017. U.S. sales for the brand peaked at 345,111 in 2002.
Special Correspondent Jim Henry spoke with Herod. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What do dealers know about when Mitsubishi production and inventory levels will come back in line with demand? What do dealers expect in terms of inventory and days' supply this year given the chip shortage?
A: Transparency of inventory has been something that's been very obvious. We have a monthly webinar with the Mitsubishi dealer body, with the pipeline in view: "This is what it looks like is coming, in the next three months." Now, maybe it isn't any earlier than I wanted to hear, but at least I know what's coming.
What's nice is, we all know what the situation is now. We're selling everything, as fast as we have it: "In February, this is how many; in March, this is how many in the Northern region," etc. It's not fast enough to keep up. But in December, Mitsubishi set a record for the most Outlanders ever sold in the U.S. It's surpassing all expectations.
But the total number seems to be improving. The total number for 2022 is cautiously optimistic. But it's from a low-low for inventory.
How are Mitsubishi dealers coping with the inventory woes? What are they doing to bolster their used-vehicle business or other areas of the dealership's business to contend with lower new-vehicle volumes?
We have to get extremely creative with customers that have time issues. We have a waiting list. For us, we have a waiting list for the Mitsubishi Mirage, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. I can remember no time in the last 12-year history, having a waiting list for the Mirage. But we do now because it's affordable. Customers say, "Why buy a 7-year-old Civic for 15, 16 grand, when I can get a brand-new Mirage?"
With used cars, OK, how do we create different streams of vehicles we can source? We are a KBB Instant Cash Offer Buying Center, based on KBB leads. These customers are interested in selling. We have "The Bear Buys" program — our mascot is the White Bear. That allows us to purchase and pick up within 24 hours. We go anywhere a customer is. We get videos of the car, pricing information, the customer is in and out in less than half an hour.
We drive all over the Twin Cities to purchase vehicles. We are doing a better job of meeting the customer where they are at — in the driveway, anywhere. We have driven an hour away to pick up a car.
Other things we've done, and these are more pandemic-related, include free home pickup and delivery for service. If a customer needs an oil change, we can deliver that to them. It tells the customer you care about them, by giving them options.