Mitsubishi wants to tell the world that it's a new company - not as obsessed with technology as before, and not the company of dubious quality that has been tainted by a recall scandal in Japan.
A design look unveiled at the Tokyo auto show is meant to express that message visually.
'The message is that Mitsubishi will provide some quite different lifestyle-oriented vehicles,' targeting various kinds of people, said Olivier Boulay, the automaker's new head of design and the man responsible for executing the mission.
'That's why we are switching our focus to a more friendly look. After all, we sell to people, not computers.'
At a pre-show briefing for reporters, Boulay accused the company of 'excessive technology,' an emphasis that has left customers with an image of Mitsubishi as 'cold and unfriendly.' As he spoke, the giant screen behind him displayed a block of ice.
Boulay joined Mitsubishi in May from Mercedes-Benz, where he created the Maybach superluxury car. He said the Mitsubishi look begins with a new front end.
In the past, Boulay said, it looked as if Mitsubishi would 'first make a grille and then look for a place to put' the company's three-diamond badge. Sometimes a small badge was almost hidden in a large grille.
Indeed, when he visited the Mitsubishi Museum to search for inspiration from earlier designs, he found only two cars - a 1959 Leo and 1960 500 - on which the three-diamond logo was large enough to be proportional to the size of the vehicle. He took those as his guide for future models.
Now, 'you put the badge first, respect the basic architecture of the badge, and then design the vehicle,' he said.
A bigger badge
As shown on the concept cars Mitsubishi unveiled in Tokyo, the badge is considerably more prominent. It is not only larger, but the angles of the top diamond in the logo form the basis of a ridge leading up to the hood. In some cases, angles on the lower two diamonds set the angles for the two grilles to the side, and even for the headlamps.
'Once you've done your work, if you take the badge away, you should recognize the car as a Mitsubishi,' Boulay said.
Because of the more prominent logo, he said, it becomes possible to drop the large written name 'Mitsubishi' from the rear of the car as well.
Inside, Boulay said, 'The interiors express different lifestyles.' To sell that idea, the female models with the different concept cars at Mitsubishi's stand at Tokyo wore different outfits to suggest lifestyles suited to each of the different cars. Boulay said Mitsubishi was not abandoning its technical heritage. Mitsubishi's technology puts it 'in the range of Honda, Subaru, Audi, and BMW,' he said. But it wants to incorporate its sporty heritage, as seen in its rally racing, as well.
The changes at Mitsubishi are more than cosmetic. Since DaimlerChrysler took a controlling 34 percent stake in the company last year, 60 percent of Mitsubishi's top managers have new assignments, and a management streamlining eliminated almost a quarter of senior executive positions.