Mitsubishi Motors’ future in Europe appears uncertain following comments by the automaker’s CEO, Takao Kato, as the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance shifts to a “leader-follower” model with each brand having control of specific regions.
“For the moment it is not very clear to us,” Kato said on Tuesday at a news conference in which the alliance announced broad plans to return to sustainable profitability. “We still need more time to fix our future direction in Europe.”
Mitsubishi has lost money in Europe for the past two fiscal years, according to financial data from the company. Mitsubishi had a net loss of $130 million for the quarter ended March 31.
All the company’s cars for Europe are built in Asia, and it has previously said that its volumes in Europe are too small to localize production in the region. Renault now makes a van for Mitsubishi in France for sale in southeast Asia and Australia.
Mitsubishi will reveal its European strategy when it presents its mid-term plan “in a few weeks,” a spokesman for the automaker in Europe said in a statement. “When it comes to further regional specifics, we will have to wait until MMC will announce our own mid-term plan to see where Europe fits (scope, volume, models, technology) within that new bigger alliance framework,” the spokesman said.
Nissan and Renault are presenting their own mid-term cost-reduction plans this week, including cuts in production, models and employee head count. Mitsubishi joined the alliance at the end of 2016, when Nissan took a 36 percent stake in the Japanese automaker, which was reeling from a fuel-economy scandal.
Mitsubishi’s most profitable region is southeast Asia, where it has been designated as the lead brand under the alliance’s “leader-follower” strategy. It also has responsibility for plug-in hybrid technology in the compact and midsize segments.
Mitsubishi had a 1.1 percent share of European passenger car registrations for the first four months of 2020, with sales of 30,085 vehicles, according to figures from automakers’ association ACEA.
The alliance has designated Mitsubishi as the lead brand for plug-in hybrid technology in the compact and midsize segments. The Outlander midsize SUV was Europe’s best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle, with sales of 10,588 through April and a 9.7 percent market share, according to data from analyst Matthias Schmidt. A new Outlander is due to go on sale in Europe in the second half of this year.
Total Outlander sales through April were 12,680, according to JATO Dynamics.
Mitsubishi’s second-best-selling car in Europe is the budget Mirage/Space Star small hatchback, with sales of 11,667 through April, according to JATO. It has been on sale since 2012 and could be threatened by future emissions legislation, as it lacks an electrified powertrain option.