Mitsubishi’s unexpected announcement of its gradual withdrawal from Europe will cause concern for its many thousands of employees here.
Sadly, the writing has been on the wall for some time.
There’s a large number of complex factors that led to bosses realising the brand’s position in European markets was untenable.
The fallout from Dieselgate harmed sales of its core 4×4 models in recent years. The Outlander PHEV, a relative success that helped Mitsubishi’s UK arm to its highest annual sales for a decade in 2018, has since fallen foul of a change in government stance on plug-in hybrids.
Then there’s the rapidly changing European Union emissions legislation, demanding massive research and development investment to develop low-emissions alternatives (likely too much when weighed up against the firm’s European sales).
And the wide-ranging disruption to the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance caused by Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic departure didn’t help matters.
But the biggest challenge? Rivals upping their game in Europe in a way that Mitsubishi was unable to match. Japanese brands caught home-market equivalents napping when they burst onto the scene in the 1960s and 1970s and enjoyed decades of success as a result. But the big European brands spent big to catch up, plus new challengers entered the scene in the form of Hyundai and Kia. Even a conglomerate as large and diverse as Mitsubishi couldn’t keep up.
Years of underinvestment have left the brand floundering. The Mirage, ASX, Outlander and Shogun (which is based on a 20-year-old design) are in dire need of replacements, and even new products such as the Eclipse Cross and the continuing popularity of the L200 weren’t enough.
The coronavirus pandemic was the final nail in the coffin: Mitsubishi’s 2019 UK market share of 0.71% was already tiny, but its registrations have fallen by more than 50% so far this year.
Cars such as the Lancer Evolution will be fondly remembered by petrolheads and rally fans alike. But six years have passed since its death and nothing has come along to inspire the same enthusiasm.
Updated: Mitsubishi freezes introduction of new models for Europe
Mitsubishi plans new SUV strategy
Who is Carlos Ghosn and why is this saga going to run and run?