Closing out 2015 on a high note, Japanese auto brand Mitsubishi Motors surpassed a benchmark that took 33 years to reach in the United States.
A feat officially accomplished on December 26th of 2015, the auto company associated with the three-diamond badge sold its 5,000,000th vehicle in the country. Formally accessing the United States market in 1982, Mitsubishi Motors presence came decades after Toyota, Honda and Nissan (under the Datsun name) established ties. In order to sell 5,000,000 vehicles in the county, Mitsubishi has drawn the contrarian car buyer wanting something a little more unique than what would arrive from other major auto companies. Technology and innovation (a reputation continuing to guide the brand’s current line-up to an extent) have been an important ingredient but performance cars such as the 3000GT, Eclipse and Lancer Evolution line gave the auto brand a reputation as a go-getting car builder.
Originally offering small cars named the Tredia and Cordia as well as a sports car called the Starion, American buyers of early Mitsubishi products were given a deepened education of electronic controls. A quirky innovation made available in 1980s Mitsubishi vehicles was the Super Shift or Twin-Stick shifter. In essence an eight-speed manual gearbox, the Twin-Stick shifter consisted of an additional shifter designed to present the driver with the choice of economy or sport performance. While the two-shifter transmission setup failed to become a motoring norm, this unusual technology displayed by Mitsubishi had defined it as a non-conformist.
Mention of a production milestone being accomplished by Mitsubishi cannot go without acknowledging what became the heart and soul of their line-up. While cars like the Galant and Mirage as well as sport utility vehicles such as the Montero or Outlander served as important Mitsubishi’s bottom line, performance-focused models have given Americans sport compact fans a source of euphoria. Started with the Starion, Mitsubishi’s performance image in the United States was defined with electronic fuel injection and turbocharging. The Mitsubishi Eclipse followed the Starion promoting a than-unusual concept of an all-wheel drive sports car. The alluring combination of all-wheel drive with a turbocharged engine made for a potent vehicle proving irresistible for sports car enthusiasts. Finally in 2003, Mitsubishi included the high-powered Lancer Evolution sedan in their United States portfolio. The Evolution VIII’s 5.1-second 0 to 60-mile per hour acceleration potential was the first time a street-legal American version of the sport compact sedan could be bought.
The Mitsubishi sale milestone announcement likely omits vehicles produced for the Chrysler Corporation. During a several-decade long partnership predating the Mitsubishi brand’s appearance in the United States, some products produced by the Japanese company were rebranded under Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth. First sold in 1971, the Dodge Colt was one of the more prevalent examples of Mitsubishi’s contribution to Chrysler’s line-up. Conversely, Mitsubishi Motors received development assistance including the construction of the platform presently used by the company. A portion of Mitsubishi’s sales is also devoted to a mid-sized pickup called the Raider that was a repackaged Dodge Dakota.
While the auto company is alive and well, the news of selling vehicles in the United States comes in a year where Mitsubishi has made two unpleasant announcements. The conclusion of the Lancer Evolution series is mourned by sport compact enthusiasts was the first new item. While the Evolution line production end came with several years of warning, Mitsubishi’s closure of their only United States production facility in Illinois came as quicker announcement. Once-called Diamond-Star Motors (relating to the Mitsubishi/Chrysler alliance), the Normal, Illinois facility has been running under capacity in recent years. Vehicle production ended in November while part production will continue until May 2016. For the United States and other markets, Mitsubishi Motors North America’s manufacturing division produced 3.2 million sales from 1988 to 2014.
Mitsubishi Motors presses beyond its 5,000,000th vehicle sale in the United States emphasizing a more economical line of products. Heading into 2016, Mitsubishi’s United States line-up will feature the Mirage, Lancer, Outlander, Outlander Sport and the all-electric i-MiEV.
Check out some cool custom Mitsubishis HERE.