QOTD: Do You Care About Mitsubishi?

I am going to make a couple assumptions about Mitsubishi, our loyal TTAC readers, and where the two intersect.
For one, I don’t think a single person who comments or reads TTAC on a regular basis owns a Mitsubishi built after 1993. Also, I am going to make an educated guess that not a single Mirage owner reads automotive websites or blogs or any information source that offers proper opinions on Mitsubishi’s smallest of offerings.
Last — but certainly not least — I am going to point out there aren’t many people who read TTAC that care about Mitsubishi in the slightest. This, my friends, isn’t just a guess.

Every morning, after sitting down with my thick-as-tar coffee and obligatory morning bagel, I check the previous day’s traffic to see what articles have done well and what ones haven’t. I was almost certain that Mitsubishi’s announcement last week would set off a shockwave of interest throughout the automotive enthusiast community, whether it be out of actual concern or pure schadenfreude.
I wasn’t the only one who thought this. Tim was certain of this, too, providing us a quick recap of Mitsubishi’s sales in the U.S. since 2002. Even Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik found the Mitsubishi situation interesting enough to spend some time behind a keyboard to smash out an excellent editorial about the state of the U.S. manufacturer-gone-importer arm of the Japanese marque. He even linked to our Mitsubishi Doomsday Clock post by the second paragraph, the good friend that he is. (It should be noted when Jalopnik posts a link in our direction, we are usually in for a fair amount of additional traffic than a typical day.)
Yet, even with those pieces in place, do you know what people found more interesting?
A crashed Mazda MX-5 Miata replaced by Mazda.
That’s right. The fact that nearly 1,200 Illinoisans will likely lose their jobs was completely supplanted in popularity by a single MX-5 being destroyed by a pickup truck.
For what it’s worth, there isn’t much to report about Mitsubishi these days other than the company has increased overall sales due in part to the Mirage, a low-margin offering built in Thailand. It’s difficult to get excited about a car that’s typically sold below MSRP since first being imported to the United States. A 20-year-old Lada would garner more intrigue from our fringe set of readers.
It’s also difficult to take Mitsubishi seriously on the surface. Its car lineup consists of the aforementioned Mirage, an eight-year-old compact Lancer (that we first saw in Tokyo as a concept 10 years ago!), a performance model based on the Lancer that’s in its last year of production, and an electric vehicle that’s been uncompetitive (and more expensive than its competitors) from day one. Even Mitsubishi’s SUV lineup has been relegated to also-ran status next to the much more modern offerings of its Japanese, Korean and American competitors.
However, if Mitsubishi played a different game, I think we would care. If Mitsubishi was more honest about the products it does offer and wasn’t hellbent on ruining the little bit of remaining goodwill it has with enthusiasts, we might actually give a shit. When a car company has virtually no exciting product in the pipeline, people don’t see the brand’s disappearance as much of a loss. Even those who’ve bought Mirages are likely not to care as there’s not a single vehicle within the Mitsubishi lineup for them up “step up” to at trade-in time once the Lancer is put out to pasture.
When Suzuki tanked, while I cared to a degree, very few other people did. Most of my positive emotion invested in Suzuki was deeply rooted in a childhood spent being driven in and learning to drive on Suzuki products. Sure, they were cheap, disposable SUVs with little to offer in the creature comfort department (our first Sidekick was completely devoid of power options, A/C and gear selection was dictated by the driver), but at least Suzuki’s offerings were unique and provided a niche choice in the market. Even toward Suzuki’s end days, the Grand Vitara was an enchanting option with rear-wheel drive and a ladder-type frame beneath its unibody coverings. Oh — and you could still get a proper manual transmission! (Let’s not talk about the Kizashi or any of the number of Korean-built Daewoo rebadges. Or the Equator.)
What does Mitsubishi have that sets it apart from any other automaker?

Unlike Suzuki, however, I think Mitsubishi will survive, whether it deserves to or not. In a marketplace where virtually anyone can get a loan, Mitsubishi will likely thrive on small vehicle sales until the financial bubble bursts. Hopefully by then, for Mitsubishi’s sake, the company will have one or two new products that elicit some amount of interest in customers besides those who’d otherwise be relegated to a “buy here, pay here” lot.
And even with all that, even if Mitsubishi survives — or even thrives — after their latest shedding of production assets and we report on a brand new Lancer or EVO-esque SUV, I don’t think a single person will care. Maybe we will have enough budget by then to crash a Miata on our own just for the page views.
What say you, B&B? Do you care about Mitsubishi in its current form? Is it even still a curiosity at this point? Or is Mitsubishi simply a lacklustre brand that’s had its clearcoat fade in the sunlight for far too long?
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