This one goes out to all the ichima-iwa loyalists. We called it. And we’re going on the record. 

Mitsubishi Motors will make a major comeback. 

To the haters in the audience; to the Legacy Owners, we’re sorry, but we’re not sorry. 

The 4G63 is a 40-year old forklift engine. It’s not coming back. Brand new Evo Xs sat on dealer lots for a full year after they stopped making them due to lack of demand. (It was essentially a Galant VR4 at that point, but whatever.) And there’s no way in hell the Big Three, let alone Nissan, would ever let Mitsubishi trucks compete in the USDM.

Mitsubishi Motors is a TRUCK & EV manufacturer.

Mitsubishi Motors’ 2021 product lineup | img: Mitsubishi Motors Japan

Mitsubishi, like so many Japanese automakers at the end of the 20th century, evolved from making relatively simple economy cars to world class machines in pursuit of motorsport glory. But they built the first 4WD car in Japan (PX-33), and 45 years making the Willys Jeep under license gave them the know-how to develop the Pajero—and then start putting 4WD systems under Starions, Galants, and Lancers. 

Wake up and drive your ambition @Earth.

“Wake up and drive”—which came out in 1998—was replaced with “Drive@earth” in 2008.

“First, Drive@earth means that automobiles connect us to the world. Mitsubishi’s 4WD legacy has catapulted a generation of drivers to every corner of the earth, from desert dunes to city streets.”

“Second, Drive@earth means a new emphasis on environmental issues. It is the simple recognition that no enterprise — automotive or otherwise — makes sense without the context of a healthy planet.”

Mitsubishi Motors

“Drive Your Ambition” came out in 2017.

img: Tan Meng Shoon

“A clear statement of MMC’s progressive commitment to innovation and discovery with a progressive vision of a sustainable future, this renewed Brand strategy is supported by an impressive portfolio of MMC engineering firsts, a never extinguished passion for all forms of mobility – on road and off road – as well as the foresight brought by a unique pedigree going back 100 years to the first vehicle launched to the world under the Mitsubishi brand.”

—  Mitsubishi Motors

MMC has been developing EV technology since the late 1960s—long before most people complaining about the retirement of the Lancer Evolution were even born. And they’ve been positioning themselves as a 4WD truck and EV manufacturer for over a decade, now. 

When the USDM got a taste of higher fuel prices, we saw the Big 3 all but crumble as full-sized truck and SUV sales fell off a cliff. We saw crapped-out Ford Festivas and Geo Metros selling for real money as people suddenly had to keep it real. 

Just about every OEM around started offering hybrid versions of the same old machines—I mean, there was a hybrid Chevy Tahoe, people. Mitsubishi showed up to the party with a simple, pure EV, based on a proven Kei car platform sold in Japan—the i—in 2006. 

Mitsubishi i-MiEV is still sold outside North America | img: MMC

“MMC provided three power companies with vehicles in 2006 and 2007 in order to evaluate how a “fast-charge” infrastructure might be developed for electric vehicles. Fleet testing by five power companies was conducted later in 2007, with a view to future public sales between 2008 and 2010.”

Wikipedia: Mitsubishi iMiEV

The US housing bubble popped in 2007, sending the world into the Great Recession. New vehicle sales took another nose dive. Nobody was buying new cars—because people were  losing their homes and jobs. Is it any wonder the iMiEV, with it’s futuristic, egg-shape and spartan features didn’t get more play?

History doesn’t repeat…

…but it DOES rhyme. 30 years ago, Mitsubishi saw Audi take the world by storm when they showed up and dominated the World Rally Championship (WRC) with their revolutionary, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive UrQuattro. They wanted a taste of that fame and fortune and, well, they’d been building turbochargers and 4WDs for years. They chased that ambition. It worked. And we all benefitted. 

The Group B Starion 4WD | img: Wikipedia, Mitsupicture

15 years later, though, MMC wanted to go green. They saw the writing on the wall—cars are evolving into electronic appliances not unlike cell phones. The bulk of the market wants style and convenience—not an easy path to doubling the horsepower with a healthy aftermarket of shelf parts. Mitsubishi brought out a simple EV, but nobody had jobs so it was bad timing. (Also why so many Evo Xs sat on the lot so long.) 

Personal Mobility Appliances?

Among other things. If cars are becoming more like appliances, it makes sense that a car company that also makes appliances and electronics would be in a good position to take advantage. That’s what we’re starting to see—those of us who haven’t had our head in the sand for the last 10 years, anway. 

Five years ago, when the only choices we had for EVs were the six-figure Tesla or bland, econoboxes like the Leaf and Soul, we said Mitsubishi would be the brand to make fun-to-drive EVs available for the everyman. Guess what—the everyman is buying crossovers. And so the Outlander PHEV has come to be very popular around the world. Progressive outlets focused on the future of motoring are praising its tech—but the forklift engine crowd isn’t hearing any of this. Why not? 

We’re calling it: Mitsubishi is making a comeback.

The 2022 Outlander is going to be on the Nissan Rogue platform with Nissan power. It’s going from 166 to 188hp—not bad! But before we bemoan further badge engineering, the silver lining is that the next Outlander PHEV will be a pure Mitsubishi development, ultimately underpinning the new Nissan Rogue PHEV.

“This engine choice is not exactly surprising because it saves Mitsubishi a significant amount of money that is likely to be invested in something equally important: the next Outlander PHEV. Already one of the best-selling plug-in hybrids on the market, the Outlander PHEV will continue playing a key role in Mitsubishi’s lineup and it’s expected to come powered by an electrified 2.4-liter engine with a total range of over 430 miles.”

Car Buzz: 2022 Outlander to have Nissan power

There will be another Evo.

And it will proudly wear the crown. It will probably be an EV—like the most recent Mitsubishi Evolution, the MiEV Evo III. And you’ll have a hard time picking between IT—and the NISMO version. Nissan will lean on Mitsubishi for their superior PHEV (and Super Select 4WD) technology. Mitsubishi will pick up market share with affordable, Nissan-powered sisters. Lather, rinse, and repeat in Europe as the Renault Koleos

It’s just like how the GST, GSX, and Evo were subsidized by sales of the non-turbocharged, FWD models which represented more than 90% of all units sold worldwide. Mitsubishi will soon be free to go all-in on their green ambitions. It’s gonna be great. 

We have to be more than enthusiasts.

Gearheads are more than mere enthusiasts. Yes, we’re enthusiastic about all things motoring and personal mobility, but we also hold ourselves to a higher standard. I like to think we take pride in being knowledgeable enough to be expert consultants to our friends and neighbors who might not be as into cars as we are. 

Just because WE want high performance machines doesn’t mean everyone else in our lives wants the same things. Some people care about reliability, comfort, fuel economy, THE ENVIRONMENT. If we want to be taken seriously as expert voices, we should probably keep an open mind to things we might not understand.

Mitsubishi isn’t dying. Anyone saying they are is only revealing their ignorance. They’ve been around for over 100 years. Their parent company makes airplanes, trains, nuclear power plants, freaking lasers, precision manufacturing and test equipment, air conditioners, TVs, AND cars—er, trucks and SUVs. They have a long, proud history of innovation and succeed when they go all-in on something. Shady, though the Nissan takeover might have been, Mitsubishi’s being part of the Alliance is a good thing. 

We’re gonna get fun EVs. It’s gonna be just like the good old days again. You heard it here first. 

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