We at AutoPacific have just completed a week’s worth of driving the Thailand-built Mitsubishi Mirage. Now we know what drivers in a third world country experience when they drive locally assembled cars. And we don’t like it much.
The 3rd generation Mitsubishi Outlander will be introduced in mid-2013 as a 2014 model year product. The new Outlander is based on carryover architecture, but has all new sheetmetal giving it a much more mainstream look. Where its predecessor has a very distinctive front end theme – admittedly controversial because of its “shark nose” style – the new Outlander goes decidedly mainstream. This is an example of Mitsu taking a very conservative approach and attempting to sell a style that no one will find controversial.
Viewed from a lower angle, the lower grille opening reminds some of Lightning McQueen in Disney/Pixar’s Cars movies. The key distinguishing feature for the new exterior style other than the toned-down front six inches is the deep character line stretching from the front fender through the doors and ending at the rear quarter. There is a horizontal bright trim piece on the liftgate stretching between the taillamps that looks like a bit of an afterthought.
Overall, the new Outlander is not displeasing, it just doesn’t grab you with its styling. For a vehicle Mitsubishi hopes will be a strong seller, the Outlander blends in rather than stand out. One way to make a statement is through pricing and it appears that Mitsubishi will drop the base price of the Outlander while adding equipment providing a stronger value statement.
Mitsubishi has been on something of a downturn over the last few years, even more so than most of the automakers during this recession. Aging model lines and relatively little marketing have reduced the brand’s visibility over the years despite some exciting turbocharged and all wheel drive products, in stark contrast to Mitsubishi’s relatively high profile at the turn of the century due to extroverted products, catchy commercials, and creative financing.
I have been looking for a chance to drive the diminutive Mitsubishi i-Cars ever since I first saw the photos of them. When visiting Mitsubishi HQ in Cypress, California, there they are in the lobby on display. But it wasn’t until the just finished Outlander and Friends press preview Mitsubishi held in Palm Springs that I was able to drive both of the i-Cars.
There were two i-Cars at the preview – the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) – the all electric Japanese kei car that the press is reporting on continuously and its gasoline-powered base car. Lets talk about the gas-powered version first.
“kei” Car for the USA? First, the Mitsubishi i is a very, very small car. It is a Japanese “kei” car meaning it is designed to be a tiny commuter car for dense urban environments. It also means that the car is limited to a 660cc engine. The example we were able to drive was powered by a turbocharged 660cc engine, had an automatic transmission and all wheel drive.
For the second year in a row, the Mitsubishi Lancer has won the Compact Car segment. Lancer owners have weighed in on the eighth-generation Lancer. They rate it highly, giving it the segment win against worthy competition like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. With a class-leading image, the Lancer looks the part. Attributes for which the Lancer strongly scored include:
• Image and exterior styling
• Safety features that help owners feel safe while driving
• Vehicle dynamics which include fun to drive, handling, braking, power and acceleration
• Lancer is great to look at and a blast to drive
AutoPacific’s 2009 Vehicle Satisfaction Award Highlights Consumer Opinion As Industry Struggles
National Survey Measures Satisfaction with New Vehicles
TUSTIN, Calif. (May 19, 2009) — In the most challenging auto sales market in years, AutoPacific today announced its 13th Annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA). For the second straight year, Cadillac ranks highest among new car owners, taking the Highest Satisfaction Brand honors even with the turmoil surrounding General Motors and the industry as a whole.
Overall brand satisfaction ratings among Hyundai purchasers jumped 11 positions earning Hyundai 2009 Rising Star honors. This positive move was more than any other manufacturer in the survey. Hyundai scored higher in 40 of 48 rating categories in 2009 compared with 2008. Two Hyundai products took VSAs this year: the Genesis in the Aspirational Luxury Car category and the Sonata in the Premium Mid-size car class.
“These are difficult times, with news of automaker bankruptcies, companies restructuring and dealer closures a daily occurrence,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Clearly, the dynamics surrounding the Vehicle Satisfaction Award in 2009 are far different from anything we’ve seen in many years. Winners needed to overachieve to earn their awards.”
Cadillac Top Brand, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Top Car, Toyota Sequoia Top Truck and Top Vehicle
Tustin, California, May 29, 2008 – A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc
. summarizes the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new passenger car or light truck.
In a year that promises to be the toughest in a decade, owner-based awards like AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award will help customers make their purchase decisions.
The brand with the highest satisfaction rating is Cadillac. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction in 2008 is the new-for-2008 Toyota Sequoia Large Sport Utility Vehicle. The passenger car with the highest overall satisfaction score is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There are twenty-eight Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. At the manufacturer level, multiple top ranked award winners include: General Motors
(eleven categories), Toyota (nine categories), Ford (six categories), Volkswagen
(four categories), Honda
(three categories) and Hyundai
“Cadillac wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in a close race. Strong satisfaction performance by Cadillac cars and trucks has Cadillac winning over other leading luxury marques including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Top ranked finishes by Cadillac’s Escalade, CTS and DTS helped cement their industry topping position.”
Peterson continues, “Vehicles that are all new received top rankings in several categories: Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xD, Toyota Sequoia, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Saturn Vue and Nissan Rogue. These new-for-2008 vehicles were strongly rated by their owners showing that the industry continues to improve as new vehicles are added to the hotly contested American car and light truck markets.”
From a vehicle type perspective, Traditional Sport Utility Vehicles received the highest ratings as a class closely followed by Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles. Peterson says, “Clearly, SUVs continue to be one of the most popular and satisfying vehicle types available in the USA today. Even with skyrocketing gas prices, SUVs are attractive and Crossover SUVs fill the bill for most SUV buyers with better fuel economy.” Cars scored slightly below industry average followed by minivans and pickup trucks.
Private equity firm Cerberus is in the process of taking Chrysler Group out of the hands of the automaker formerly known as DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX). What will soon become Daimler AG will continue to own 19.9% of the new company – Chrysler Holdings LLC – with Cerberus owning the remainder. This is the end of the Jurgen Schrempp dream for Daimler-Benz to create a global auto colossus made up of Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.
Cerberus Has Auto Industry Heavyweights Involved
Daimler-Benz took over (no merger – ever) Chrysler Corporation in November 1998 for $36 billion. Nine years later, DCX agreed to sell 80% of what is now Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital for $7.4 billion. Clearly Schrempp’s plan did not work.
Impact on Opinion of Chrysler –
In late March, a VehicleVoice survey indicated that the opinion of Chrysler Group had deteriorated drastically from a year earlier. Our respondents variously said: “Daimler bought ’em, raped ’em and threw them away,” “Why would I buy a car from a company that’s parent company is trying to sell it?” Perhaps the purchase by Cerberus will serve to offset some of this deterioration, but time will tell.
Cerberus is the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell. Cerberus Capital is an interesting firm in its own right. Secretive to a fault, at least three auto industry heavyweights are on its letterhead (if they had one): David Thursfield, former Vice Chairman of Ford and an aggressive cost cutter; Wolfgang Bernhard, former COO of Chrysler Group (with Zetsche) and then head of Volkswagen in Germany prior to his Cerberus gig; and Robert Rewey, former head of Sales at Ford. Rewey could sell anything any day of the week. While Cerberus says they will keep the present Chrysler Group management team in place, it is only a matter of time that “adjustments” begin being made.
Remember the character in Pretty Woman
played by Richard Gere? He was a private equity magnate that wanted to buy a shipbuilder, break it up and sell the pieces for a profit. A private equity firm like Cerberus isn’t too much different and the jury is still out on how Cerberus will handle its investment in Chrysler Group.
Cerberus has an interesting portfolio – a large stake in Delphi, 51% of GMAC – General Motors’ financing arm, Tower Automotive, Guilford Mills, Albertson’s, Sav-On, and others. The fact that Cerberus now controls Chrysler Financial and over half of GMAC gives it substantial clout in the automotive financial services market.
So, now, Chrysler Holdings can stay below the radar as a privately held company. Unfettered of its requirements to be transparent financially the company will largely be able to restructure itself outside the glare of the media and Wall Street. What will emerge after three, five or seven years is unknown, but the story will be fascinating to watch as is unfolds.
Racers Rejoice: Prototype X
While most US car buyers are not that familiar with the Lancer Evolution, the vehicle has a cult-like following in Japan and among those familiar with Rally Racing . The EVO is also one of the most popular vehicles in the video game circuit. If you want to win, select the EVO.
America had to wait decades to get its hands on the EVO. The Lancer Evolution VIII was the first to be offered in the U.S. market, and gained popularity among performance enthusiasts as a true street racer.