What do Mitsubishi, Jeep and Land Rover have in common? More than you might think, if you take to heart what the company’s European division believes its brand stands for.
The Japanese company has long made it clear that SUVs and light commercials are where it wants to focus, at the expense of passenger vehicles that have lower margins.
The brand believes this approach not only matches market trends, but also plays to its own strengths, legacy and image. In short, it feels that by embracing its synonymy with 4WD vehicles, it gains commonality with icons Jeep and Land Rover.
This at least is the argument put forward by Mitsubishi Motors’ European general manager of communications, Daniel Nacass, who feels the highly focused British and American brands are the only other companies with a similar pedigree.
“There is a difference between us and others,” the Frenchman said, referring to Mitsubishi Europe, but in a message easily transferable to other regions.
“We have a pedigree, going back to 1936 with the PX-33 (below). We’re not based on cars. There are only three brands with that SUV pedigree, and that’s us, Jeep and Land Rover. Three brands.”
“For example, Jeep — which is dear to me as I worked nine years with Chrysler. Any Jeep, even the small Renegade based off a Fiat platform, went through the Rubicon trail. That’s essential to Jeep,” Nacass said.
“When Land Rover developed the Evoque cabriolet, that’s a fashion accessory, but the engineers made sure its body was not like chewing gum.
“Our engineers, they have the same approach… SUVs are at the very heart of our product strategy, once again especially in Europe.”
Nacass cited the company’s 1936 PX33 4×4, its 12 Dakar rally wins from 26 entries, the 1982 premiere of the Pajero, its WRC success with All-Wheel Control, its presence in the Baja rally and even its 1987 Galant VR4 with active 4×4 underpinnings.
Naturally, brands such as Toyota, Suzuki and Nissan would obviously strongly disagree, but Nacass maintained that Mitsubishi’s core focus remained quite unique, and inferred that its small scale made it especially needful to hone in on core strengths.
“Again, I’m talking Europe… but here we have, and you can check that, our presence in the 4×4 market has always been very, very strong,” he said.
“We have tried may times to launch passenger cars, obviously Lancer and Colt are well-known, but when it comes to the success and reputation we have, it is that of 4WD… There is a strong perception in Europe that Mitsubishi is a SUV brand.”
All this mean you can expect Mitsubishi’s role in the expanded Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance (Nissan is a majority shareholder in Mitsubishi, as of last year) to be that of 4WD and LCV expert, as well as plug-in hybrid leader.
First cab off the rank will likely be co-developing a Pajero successor alongside a more global-friendly Nissan Patrol, with shared components.