The Mitsubishi brand has had a tough decade. From losing its alliance with Daimler to being absorbed into the Renault-Nissan machine, Mitsubishi should be counting itself lucky just to be here. What could’ve been disaster for the brand seems to have become its major strength. The Renault-Nissan Alliance has now grown to become the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, with Mitsubishi becoming a key player in the trio.
Against all odds, the company has been able to post positive sales year upon year, even after the loss of the mighty Lancer sedan for the US market back in 2017. A year later, in 2018, the brand sold an impressive 118,074 vehicles in the United States, which was an exciting 13.9% improvement on the previous year—all without the Lancer bolstering sales. And sales haven’t just been on the up in the US either. The brand is doing very well on the global stage.
In fact, the US market only accounts for around 10% of the company’s global sales. In 2017, Mitsubishi posted a record breaking 1,026,000 vehicle sales worldwide, with impressive growth from one year to the next. The last annual sales increase of 3.5% proves that the Mitsubishi name isn’t going to fade away anytime soon, or fall into obscurity. It might not be the most impressive growth percentage, but it’s still growth in a time that isn’t being particularly kind to the automotive industry. Especially when you consider peripheral news stories such as Dieselgate, and other companies that have been embroiled in subsequent emissions scandals. And of course, public opinion on fossil fuels has taken a tremendous nosedive too.
Let’s not forget the global financial crisis that shook the world’s markets back in 2008; this was a severely damaging time for Mitsubishi, who lost up to 60% of their global sales in short two-year window. Yes, it’s fair to say that the 21st century hasn’t been kind to the brand. Or rather, the first two decades of the 21st century haven’t been kind. We’re now in 2020, and as the brand continuous to record positive growth, we have a feeling that Mitsubishi will once again return to foreground.
2020 will bring some exciting new Mitsubishi models and updates to the table, but we’re going to look ahead and see what 2021 will bring for the Japanese automaker.
Unfortunately, Mitsubishi doesn’t offer a substantial range in the USA, so our list of concrete predictions is limited. However, what we lack in facts we can more than make up for in rumors. Rumors are rumors, it’s true, but some of these are based on interesting evidence, so they’re worth taking a look at.
So, without further ado, lets’ take a look at what we can expect from the 2021 Mitsubishi line-up, and a further look at what we hope appears in the dealerships too.
What To Expect From The 2021 Mitsubishi Line-Up
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander
This one is 100% happening. There aren’t any crazy rumors or anything circulating, because a lot is already known about the upcoming Mitsubishi Outlander. The venerable Outlander has been available in the US market since 2014, and it’s in need of a serious update. Since the Outlander rolled on to the scene in 2014, Mitsubishi has joined the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and any new versions of Mitsubishi vehicles are expected to have a degree of either Nissan or Renault DNA woven into the mix. Luckily, the Outlander test mule has been spotted and photographed testing out in the Midwest, so we have a good idea of what the new Outlander is all about, despite the camouflage.
Underneath the camouflage, we can guess that the next-generation Outlander will have a striking similarity to the new Nissan Rogue. The details of the bodywork will be different, but the overall architecture and floorplan will probably be identical. This is no bad thing at all—the Rogue is one of Nissan’s best loved (if not bland) vehicles. If they end up sharing the same platform, this will mean that the new Outlander will be bigger than ever before, putting it more in Hyundai Santa Fe territory.
In terms of actual styling, we have to use a bit of imagination. However, Mitsubishi showcased their innovative Engelberg Tourer concept in 2019, and it’s highly likely that the new Outlander and the Engelberg Tourer will have very similar styling cues. Even through the camouflage coverings, we can see that the Outlander features a blunt front end, with similarly located vents, and almost identical lighting too. Even the rear has a number of close similarities with concept, from the rear passenger windows, to the lighting elements. It’s not exactly the same, but there are a lot of similarities.
The powertrain is the biggest mystery of all. Some theorists are speculating about the possibility of a 1.5 liter turbo four-cylinder unit that you’d find on the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. It’s good for 153 horsepower in Eclipse form, but will probably have more power if inserted into an Outlander. There could be a hybrid option, with a 2.4 liter four-cylinder with electric motors offering AWD potential. Or Mitsubishi could just borrow technology directly from Nissan.
Mitsubishi’s North American product manager was quoted saying that: “the next-generation Outlander will be kind of the first ideas of implementing and using common platforms and sharing technologies,” suggesting that a Nissan motor might not be out of the question. Whatever happens, we’ll have to wait to find out about it. Keep your ear to the ground during the Geneva or New York Auto Shows.
2021 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
After the Final Edition appeared in 2015, heralding the end of an era, the car industry has been rife with rumors about a triumphant return of the legendary Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Mitsubishi has always been adamant that the Lancer Evolution won’t be returning, or stating that if it did return it would be an a different from, like a upmarket SUV or sporty crossover. A new sedan with rally racing potential was simply not going to be an option. Or so Mitsubishi said.
A recent article from Autocar suggests that Mitsubishi may be changing its mind. Details from unnamed sources suggest that a new Lancer Evolution sedan model is very much on the way. The same unnamed and unchallenged sources also explain that the eleventh generation Lancer will feature and Evolution model that shares the same technology and powertrain as the Renault Megane RS. Not the current little hatchback though—the new version that’s currently ranked as the fastest front-wheel production car to fly around the Nürburgring.
The RS Trophy and Trophy-R are seriously potent machines. Under the hood, they both feature a fierce 1.8 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that can generate 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of peak torque. If the new Mitsubishi was to be similarly armed, then we’re looking at a very sports Lancer Evolution coming our way. What’s more, there’s also talk of a collaborative-effort from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in the form of a newly developed mild-hybrid powertrain, working in partnership with a larger 2.0 liter engine that could boost that output to 341 horsepower and 319 lb-ft of peak torque.
The plan to revive the Lancer Evolution is said to be the brainchild of Mitsubishi’s Osamu Masuo. The chairman wants the Mitsubishi name to return to the ranks of top flight performance cars, and after a fairly disastrous few years in the 2010s, and now with Nissan’s backing, the time for a new Lancer Evolution seems ripe.
Any new Lancer Evo is expected to arrive in both a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback configurations, and built on top of the Renault-Mitsubishi-Nissan CMF-C/D F4 architecture. Unfortunately, there’s no word on when (or even if) a new Lancer Evo is on the way. But if it truly is on the cards, expect an announcement or even a concept model to make an appearance sometime in 2021.
2021 Mitsubishi Pickup Plans
A quick internet search for “2021 Mitsubishi” will give you a mixture of results. You’ll get all the spiel about the new Outlander, but those results will also be peppered with information about a plan for Mitsubishi to return to building pickup trucks for the North American market. Now, the last Mitsubishi pickup we had in the USA was the 2005 to 2009 Mitsubishi Raider…also known as the Dodge Dakota. After that, Mitsubishi turned its back on the pickup market but now it looks like it’s making a serious effort to market something in the segment.
Overseas, Mitsubishi has been working hard with their compact pickup truck idea: the Mitsubishi Triton. It’s a bold pickup that enjoys success in almost every market it retails in, and the latest iteration—the 2018 model—has just had a very nice refresh that will no doubt go down well with longstanding Triton fans. It currently retails in around 150 other countries, but the US isn’t one of them, but it might be in the near future.
Since it’s currently a compact pickup truck, it’s not particularly well-suited to the needs of American drivers, or rather, there are other trucks that can do the job just as well already. Instead, the Triton would need to have something extra if it was going to compete and succeed in the US market. Mitsubishi’s Chief Operating Officer for North America, Mark Chaffin, told msn.com: “We would like to have (a pickup), but we’d have to have one that’s the right for Mitsubishi, for our demographic, and something competitive in the market,” which suggests that the option is out there.
Reports have suggested that a Triton might appear on US soil in 2024. Other sources suggest that a Mitsubishi pickup might be coming sooner, and not in Triton-form either. The word on the street is that this semi-mythical pickup could appear even sooner, and could very well be built upon existing Renault and Nissan architecture. Essentially, a new Mitsubishi pickup would share DNA with the new Nissan Frontier. And that’s no bad thing.
As we’ve talked about in other 2020 and 2021 upcoming vehicle articles, a completely overhauled Nissan Frontier is coming soon. Mitsubishi has also been showcasing some exciting PHEV concepts, championing plug-in hybrid technology recently, and this quote from Mark Chaffin may indicate that Mitsubishi may be considering a hybrid pickup in the near future: “This is my belief: I think what’s defined as performance is going to evolve. So you start mixing in some of that electrification technology and these hybrid drivetrains, the aspect of performance is going to change in the future.”
So, if we’re getting a new Mitsubishi Triton in the USA sometime in the next few years, should we be expecting Nissan Frontier architecture with a hybrid option? That seems about right. When will something like that arrive? Hard to say, but it would be nice to see this develop into something sooner rather than later. 2021 doesn’t seem out of the question, even if it’s just a concept or prototype model being unveiled.
Whatever Mitsubishi has lined up for the near future, the brand will need to work hard to capture American audiences. Granted, the brand has shown improvement over the last decade, with a large jump of 13.9% improvement between 2017 and 2018, but there’s more that needs to be done. Ever since the Mitsubishi-Daimler alliance disintegrated, Mitsubishi’s presence in the USA has been significantly diluted.
However, Mitsubishi has worked hard to grow their dealerships. In early 2019, the brand only had 367 dealerships in the USA, and by early 2020 the firm plans to increase that number to 400. Currently, Mitsubishi doesn’t have much of a presence in the nation’s metropolitan centers, which makes sense because it doesn’t manufacture many small passenger cars. Instead, Mitsubishi will no-doubt be thinking of establishing new dealerships in remoter regions, where SUVs, crossovers, and utilitarian pickup trucks will be more appealing to customers.
With that in mind, a decent pickup truck would play an important part in strengthening Mitsubishi’s market presence right across the USA.
What About A Sport Utility Truck?
There’s all this talk of SUVs and pickups trucks, but what about a Sports Utility Truck (SUT)? The Mitsubishi Concept GR-HEV is an interesting concept from the brand that marries together the best features of both an SUV and a pickup truck, and puts them into something else entirely. Could this be that missing-link in the market that Mitsubishi is looking to market in North America?
It’s highly unlikely, but Americans do love big SUVs and big trucks, so rolling those two things into one could make for interesting sales results. Take the best parts of the Triton and mix it with the everyday practicality with an SUV, and pepper it with premium details from and upmarket sedan, and you’ve just invented an entirely new segment.
The Mitsubishi Concept GR-HEV first debuted in 2013, and between then and now, a lot has happened in the car industry. Is it time for Mitsubishi to brush the dust off of this old concept and try and mold it into something that could go into production? Don’t discount it.
The front end of the concept features aerodynamic and distinctively SUV bodywork, with ample room for a useful rear passenger cabin, while the rear supports a practical and functional pickup bed. Details include aluminum front air dams, LED lighting at the front and rear, a functional but performance-oriented shape, and an interesting powertrain.
The original concept featured a diesel-hybrid system, powered by a 2.5 liter diesel engine with an accompanying electric motor and lithium-ion hybrid electric system. The addition of electric motors instantly allows for AWD driving, using Mitsubishi’s own Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), with Super Select 4WD, and four distinct driving modes (2H, 4H, 4HL, and 4LL) that provide responsive torque and traction control to help you traverse any terrain with ease. Other features include Active Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, and Lane Departure Warning systems.
We’re very much in pipe dream-territory, because this thing is probably going to remain a concept. But it would be very cool to see something like it on the road. It may happen, but it probably won’t be for a few years anyway, when Mitsubishi has bit more money to throw at the development of realistic new models.