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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The rise and fall of house Mitsubishi

In the early 1990s, Honda was in deep trouble. Then-CEO Nobuhiro Kawamoto had just grasped the helm of a somewhat leaky ship. The death of company founder Soichiro Honda in August of 1991 left a gaping leadership void, and the company's product portfolio was behind the times.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/the-rise-and-fall-of-house-mitsubishi/
18 REPLIES 18
NAMiata
Intermediate Driver

It's easy to underestimate Mitsubishi in the US. But at one point, the parent company represented a staggering 10% of Japan's GDP!

Needless to say, they have the resources to make a comeback if it was really what they wanted.
Lash
Intermediate Driver

As a teen, I had a 74 Colt. What a horrendous, gawdawful piece of non-engineering.
audiobycarmine
Technician

Brendan, this is a very fascinating article on the long history of a company AND country. Most informative and well-researched, (though I'd add that the Zaibatsu were a Military/Industrial Complex too, who pushed the Emperor to continue the War. Eisenhower warned of our own in a famous speech.)

Mitsubishi's manufacturing and engineering history notwithstanding, they're the last Japanese company I'd buy from.
A neighbor had one that seldom ran, and most seemed to rust-in-place too.
They DID have some truly remarkable cars though; the 3000 GT series in particular. A friend had one of those and loved it when it ran — overly complex was his description.

First to last, my own overall quality and reliability rating would be:
Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, Mitsubishi.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

You’ve left out just how much they were on the cutting edge of engineering back in the day. None other than Porsche licensed their four-cylinder balance technology and their late 80s galants were showcases for technical innovation. Unfortunately, many of their bits of technical wizardry were more complicated than beneficial.
Snailish
Gearhead

It's pretty easy.

Make a killer, boxy 4 door sedan. AWD. I'd offer gas with manual/auto, hybrid, and EV that you call the EVo (duh). All of these Evo have that aggressive body (don't increase costs with a core lancer with different parts) and make sure it lives up to the idea of that name. Don't overprice it beyond those that will buy them (something they lost sight of with the final generations)... save money by not changing the platform often as they don't need to --the fanbase would happily take a 10 year all the parts fit generation.

Then you make a station wagon version of that. Now you have hit the sweet spot of what the brand is known for, as well as two markets that are underserved by current offerings from other companies.

Get the little van here (North America), yesterday. Make a version with a pick-up bed available here too. Now you have tapped the small utility market that is terribly underserved here as well.

Keep making the crossovers that sell, sure I guess. I'd be inclined to go more rugged though. Make Mitsubishi a lifestyle brand for the adventurous, the outdoors... the fast and furious? (embrace it I say).

 

It would be joyously refreshing for a brand to take such a "we don't care about the rest" stance. So many wouldn't get it, but those that do... would be driving a Mitsubishi.

It's amusing to me that Evos don't get more mention here on Hagerty as the prices have held strong in my area. I should have snagged one when they were still (rarely) popping up on dealer lots as off-lease cars 5 years ago.

hyperv6
Racer

Mitsubishi just has struggled with quality over the years.

They have been a large company but their focus has not always been automotive.

While quality lacked they also struggled with styling at times for the American market. As did the lack of good dealers to fix the problems.

Getting tied to Chrysler did not help much either. Though some of these cars were their best but Chrysler was having their own issues at the time.

Rust also hurt them in Northern states.

A buddy had a Mitsubishi truck and he loved the truck when it ran. So he put in a Chevy V8. It finally was reliable.

Their future is challenged and to make the move to EV models to be competitive in the future global market will require some kind of partnership.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

Mitsubishi was a company that in the 80's and the 90's was just a maker of fun and affordable performance oriented cars. I owned two Eclipse models (90' GS and '97 GSX) and one DSM twin Eagle '92 TSI AWD. I loved the EVO's (most of which we did not get here), the 3000GT VR-4 and it's Dodge Stealth twin and the Galant VR-4. As a kid in the 80's the Mitsubishi Starion and Chrysler Conquest twins were among the coolest performance cars of their day. We called them Starquests back in the day!  It is too bad all this got squandered when the company lost so much money on selling cars with near 0% rates to people who would end up not paying their bills and then the unfortunate scandal they had. Now their cars are cut-rate Nissans and crappy ones at that. When I see a new Mitsubishi I see someone who did no research when buying a car beyond does it have 4 wheels and a steering wheel. Buying a Mitsubishi is buying the worst car on the road today for the money.

golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

In the late '90's I had the pleasure of owning a Mitsubishi Diamante wagon that I really enjoyed. Had a very robust 3.0L V6 and a nicely appointed leather interior. My one and only fore into the Mitsubishi brand.
elldorado2000
Advanced Driver

My memory of Mitsubishi is that of unreliable rust buckets. There was a time when you saw Eclipse' everywhere. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw one. I actually drove a wore out example, years ago. The steering was all over the place and it was the loosest, noisiest car I have ever driven. If you have heard the expression "held together with bubble gum and baling wire" it described this particular Eclipse to a tee.
Zephyr
Instructor

I can't even begin to count how many repossessed Eclipses I inspected for Mitsubishi finance back in the 90's. To boost sales they would sell cars to people who couldn't afford them, and many of them ended up repossessed. At least the Mitsubishi owners were honest about it though; Hyundai was doing the same thing but when the car developed a problem that the owner couldn't afford to fix they would just drive it out to the middle of nowhere, set it on fire and then report it as stolen. Mitsubishi reliability? I was at their dealer in Berkeley once (incidentally the factory had taken over the store because the dealer was going broke), complaining that the replacement transmission that they had put in our insured's car after accidentally destroying the computer in it was defective, and the service manager pointed to an alternator on the bench and said that it was the 5th factory built alternator that had failed shortly after installation. Also, sales weren't helped by the fact that people of the WWII generation associated the name Mitsubishi with the Zero fighter plane. Pretty much the only good thing ever to come out of Mitsubishi was that great commercial featuring a very talented girl doing a dance with her arms while sitting in the passenger seat.
espo70
Advanced Driver

I had an 84 Mitsubushi Cordia back in the day. It was Mitsus answer to the Toyota Celica. Fun little hatchback. Had a 3 valve head and a 5 speed. I wanted the turbo version, but they were hard to find. The Station/Conquest were among my favorite 80's cars. I think reliability was always an issue with Mitsubishi. My buddy had a new 89 Eclipse that seemed to disintegrate before our eyes.
Krippel
Intermediate Driver

Fascinating article! Such a storied history. I’d love to see Mitsubishi make a comeback; down but not out…
Ddouthitt57
New Driver

A quick shout out for the Dodge Raider/ Mitsi Montero. My wife drove up and down the mountains around Lake Tahoe passing a fair share of Jeeps and other American 4x4s. Kind of a poor woman’s Defender. Unfortunately the Montero grew a bunch in size and price from her little 4 cylinder 2 door.
MikeYoung00
Pit Crew

Mitsubishi did build a few great cars over the years. The DSM cars were fantastic, especially the turbo versions. I owned an old Galant VR4 for a few years and got to know the parts manager at the local dealership pretty well. It was a very fun car, especially with a few upgrades.

Sadly nowadays if you want a second rate vehicle and a really poor dealer experience, you head over to your friendly local Mitsu dealer.
Tsaxman
Advanced Driver

As my brother used to say, "From the people that brought us Pearl Harbor."

That is "Zero humor" for those who forget.
mitsudakar
New Driver

They really need to update the Mirage to be an EV. They could beat Tesla to the punch with a hatchback EV. They have the ability to do it.
ladycarlover
Intermediate Driver

I read your whole article, Brendan, and really have nothing to say or add or disagree with, except for this: THANK YOU for using portmanteau in a sentence not relating to a piece of luggage! Oddly, I've often learned new words or usages via Hagerty articles!!! 🙂
MustangJim
Technician

Thank you for this interesting article Brenden. Of course I knew about starions , eclipses , colts, little pick up trucks and zero fighter plains, etc... but there was a lot here that I did not know. Great article!