Mitsubishi in the USAMitsubishi Distributor in USA Reinventing Itself
The latest of Mitsubishi’s rebirths in the USA started with Nissan acquiring control of Mitsubishi in 2016. Mitsubishi then became part of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance. Soon after Nissan took control, Fred Diaz became head of Mitsubishi Motors North America. Diaz had previously held positions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (head of Ram) and at Nissan North America. After spending about a year in Japan, Diaz was given the job to rebuild Mitsubishi in USA.
Organization Changes at Mitsubishi Since Diaz became head of Mitsubishi most of the senior management is new to the company or has been promoted from within. The new management has the charter to change the thinking at the distributor and to implement innovative ways to get the brand back into the consideration set of the North American consumer.
HQ Relocation to Nashville Mitsubishi has announced it will move its North American HQ from its long-time Southern California base to Nashville, Tennessee by the end of 2019. About 60 staffers out of 200 will be offered relocation packages to Nashville. For those people moving, they will find no income taxes compared with California’s highest rate in the nation. They will find housing prices at about 50% of Southern California. They will find living costs about 75% of SoCal. Gasoline prices are ridiculously cheap compared to SoCal and finally TVA electricity costs are very reasonable.MMNA Moves To Franklin_FINAL 6.25.19
It may be that those offered a transfer perceive Nashville as all big hair and country music. They will quickly learn that Nashville is a cosmopolitan medium size city with a lot going for it.
Mitsubishi Dealers Mitsubishi is embarking on a Dealer Visual Identity Program to upgrade the brand’s image and improve customer satisfaction. Of the 375 Mitsubishi dealers in the USA, about 70 have signed on to the program. The investment in this program can range from a couple of hundred thousand dollars to millions. Over time, MMNA plans to have a total dealer count of about 450 and to cover 90% of the major markets in the country.
The Identity program can result in a very dramatic dealership if it implemented in total. The first example of a complete dealer upgrade was a greenfield showroom in Lewisville, Texas; a suburb of Dallas. Lewisville Mitsubishi worked with Mitsubishi management in California and Japan to develop the catalog that dealers can select from. This prototype effort basically used everything in the catalog and had a budget for $13.5 million.
Small Batch Mitsubishi recognizes that they cannot compete with the big boys when it comes to advertising and media dollars. MMNA brought on Kim Gardner from Kia Motors America as their Chief Marketing Officer. Gardner’s expertise is in digital media and they have launched a digital program they call “Small Batch”. Small Batch focuses on carefully crafted products not mass market. The idea is that, given Mitsubishi’s 125,000 units of sales in the USA in 2018, they should not try to attract mass market customers. They should instead tightly focus their marketing dollars on prospects who want something different.
Small Batch YouTube spot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l55dujCEck&list=PL3SYqvN6h3eBBl_ET4OrxCYsgXcUhLJHG&index=2
Studying tech-savvy direct to consumer brands, the strategy aims to efficiently find the right prospect. The Small Batch video has been running on social media since April, 2019 and is getting wide play.
Mitsubishi Products Mitsubishi’s present lineup consists of three crossover SUVs and one tiny, cheap car. The Eclipse Cross XSUV is a year old. The Outlander Sport XSUV is getting a facelift in Fall, 2019. The larger Outlander XSUV will be renewed in 2020. The Mirage small car is targeted at entry level buyers who want a new product with a low price and long warranty. Mitsubishi is pretty well positioned with its XSUVs, but dealers are crying for a pickup truck. With Mitsubishi’s relationship with Nissan, there may be opportunity for product sharing down the road, but there nothing they are sharing at this point.