Mitsubishi importer looks for new brand
21 August 2020
Author: Simon Harris
Mitsubishi's UK importer was blindsided by the company's announcement that Europe no longer features in new model plans. Simon Harris explains what happens now.
Mitsubishi's UK importer is evaluating new brands for its dealer network as the Japanese brand announced its pending withdrawal from Europe at the end of July.
Colt Car Company (CCC), which has been an independent importer and distributor of Mitsubishi models since 1974, has been trying to work out what could be feasible in future in the absence of new models from the brand.
As a separate entity from Mitsubishi's European operation, it has conducted business directly with Japan, and, as the UK is a right-hand drive market, has in the past been able to import models to the UK that were unavailable in the rest of Europe.
It last did this in 2008 with the rear-engined Mitsubishi i-Car - the vehicle that later became re-engineered for European and other markets as the electric-only Mitsubishi i-Miev.
The company also has a sophisticated facility at Portbury, where Mitsubishi vehicles arrive in the UK, capable of making further modifications to tailor vehicles to UK customers. For example, the commercial vehicle versions of Mitsubishi 4x4s and the Outlander PHEV are created at Portbury.
Business Car spoke to CCC boss Rob Lindley in the April edition of the magazine, and he was optimistic about the replacement for the Outlander PHEV, due to be unveiled this autumn, and its potential for UK fleet operators.
The Outlander PHEV was introduced in 2014, a year after diesel versions were launched. It quickly reached sales of 10,000 a year, with around half being procured by fleet users. Its rarity at the time as a usable and practical PHEV gave it strong appeal, as did its reduced BIK tax compared with diesel alternatives.
However, many other brands now offer similar types of vehicles, and the latest generation of plug-in hybrids have more usable EV range than the Outlander is able to offer - hence the buzz around a potential replacement, based on the Engelberg concept car of 2019.
Mitsubishi Corporation, the parent company of Mitsubishi subsidiaries, is a major shareholder in CCC, so it would seem unusual for it to preside over a move that would see its brand disappear from Europe.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC), forms part of an automotive alliance with Renault and Nissan, joining the partnership in 2016, and having its name added to the organisation's title 'Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi' a year later.
The alliance has undergone a recent re-evaluation of its operations, and has given Renault the lead for model development in Europe, tasked Nissan with focusing on North America and China, with Mitsubishi concentrating on the Far East and Japan.
It means Mitsubishi has effectively withdrawn from European vehicle markets, and CCC has ruled out being able to import certain right-hand drive models independently in future.
A spokesman told Business Car: "As an independent importer we could, technically, import RHD vehicles, but Mitsubishi has made the business decision to not launch any new future models into Europe and we must respect that decision.
"In any case, the strength of the yen (unlike when it was much weaker in 2008 when the iCar was first imported) is one of the main reasons Mitsubishi has taken this decision, along with the increasingly prohibitive cost of vehicle type approval in Europe.
"Without European type approval, we would have to go down a very complicated and potentially expensive process to certify cars here in the UK, which simply isn't viable, particularly if the UK Government decides to change the rules as part of its Road to Zero strategy, which it is wont to do at any time."
Regarding the position of CCC with Mitsubishi Corporation as a shareholder, the spokesman added that there should not be obstacles to CCC introducing other brands to the UK, such as Chinese automotive brands specialising in electric vehicles (EVs).
He added: "Mitsubishi Corporation is indeed a shareholder in CCC but the Mitsubishi family comprises more than 600 companies globally. so they are not all as closely linked to each other as the shared name would suggest.
"That said, Mitsubishi Corporation invested in CCC because it is a profitable and successful business, and it wants to see that business continue to flourish.
"Without future new MMC models being launched in Europe, talking to other brands represents no conflict of interest for anyone - and it is something CCC had been doing anyway, originally with a view to complementing the existing Mitsubishi range with some innovative new EVs, but with interest and momentum building around electrification the timing is right for us to evolve beyond those initial ambitions.
"We don't speak on behalf of Mitsubishi Corporation, but with the exciting prospect of disruptive new brands arriving in the UK, combined with our successful track record and vast experience, we are confident that as a shareholder they will support us to be successful."
For the time being, Mitsubishi dealers plan to continue to sell the current model lines until the end of the production cycle.
Mitsubishi's current range in the UK
Engine: 1.2 petrol 79hp
CO2 (BIK band): 113-127g/km (25-28%)
Mitsubishi's smallest car has never been in danger of winning any awards other than for value, and has little appeal in the core fleet sector. It is perhaps more suited as a bodyshop courtesy car or to Motability users.
Engine: 2.0 petrol 150hp
CO2 (BIK band): 171-187g/km (37%)
The oldest model in Mitsubishi's line-up, introduced in 2010, and once a high-value Nissan Qashqai rival, the ASX has not kept pace with other market offerings, and its petrol-only powertrain makes it expensive for BIK tax.
Engine: 1.5 turbo petrol 163hp
CO2 (BIK band): 170-196g/km (37%)
Another petrol-only model, although with a more modern powertrain than the ASX. Perhaps would have worked more favourably if a PHEV was available, but the numbers fail to stack up for fleet use with the existing versions.
Engine: 2.0 petrol 150hp, 2.4 petrol PHEV 224hp
CO2 (BIK band): 46g/km-196g/km (12-37%)
A 2.0-litre petrol-only variant was introduced when the PSA diesel versions were withdrawn, but the PHEV popularised plug-in hybrids in the UK, and many will wonder what the next-generation model might have delivered.
CO2 (BIK band): 227g/km (37%)
The Shogun Sport replaced the Shogun as Mitsubishi's heavy-duty 4x4 car. Its towing limit is lower than the Shogun it replaced, however, and many retail customers will be looking for the style of the L200, with which it shares a platform.
LCV OTR: £21,420-£32,310
The L200 used to be the bestselling model in its class a couple of generations ago, but although still capable, and highly regarded by many commercial vehicle fleets, other brands have also seen success in this sector.