Don Swearingen, CEO and executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America, sat down with Digital Trends recently to discuss the products and technologies his company will offer customers in the future. Swearinger noted that the Outlander PHEV has been very well received in the US, a fact he attributes to “new product and new, aggressive advertising.”
Next up from Mitsubishi is the all new Eclipse Cross, a compact SUV that is svelte and stylish but has little to offer fans of low and zero emissions cars. It comes with a 1.5 liter turbocharged engine in either front wheel drive or all wheel drive configuration. So now that Mitsubishi is part of the Nissan Renault Alliance, when can customers expect more electric or plug-in hybrid models from the company?
“[L]et me just say…in the last three months [since] we launched the Outlander PHEV, we’re getting some good response, some good sales volume on that. It’s actually bringing a totally new customer to the brand. These customers are higher household income. But the key is, most of them tell us that Mitsubishi was never on their shopping list prior to this car launch,” Swearingen says.
“We are using the synergies from Nissan on the fully electric vehicle, and Mitsubishi on the plug-in hybrid vehicle, and using those technologies to advance both of our product lineups in the future. So, I think you will see both PHEV and electric CUVs coming out of Mitsubishi in the future. 80% of all vehicles produced for the Alliance will come off common platforms, for both of us. And that’s the whole purpose of the Alliance, to try and find synergies where each of us have expertise and try to expand and use that as we develop our products for the future.
“It costs a lot of money to develop all of this new technology. Mitsubishi basically makes one million vehicles a year — not a lot of cars to spread that development cost. With the Alliance now being over 10 million vehicles [a year], that adds a lot more that we can spread those costs over, and now get it very economical not only for us but the consumer.”
There is a place for more plug-in hybrid models in the near term, he says.
“I think that there’s a lot of people that are very environmentally conscious who would love to have a fully electric [car]. But because of lack of infrastructure here in the U.S. and, still, some range anxiety, there are concerns that they have. So, at least at the current time, they look at that plug-in hybrid as a way to get to where they want to go, but also have the safety of having the combustion engine when they run out of charge.”
Autonomous technology is available to Mitsubishi, thanks to its affiliation with Nissan and its ProPilot suite of electronic driving aids.
“I think adapting it is just like plug-in hybrids: we have to educate the consumers. They have to make a decision for themselves if it’s right for them. Some people think autonomous driving is going to change their life drastically. Others may think they don’t want to put their life in the hands of technology. So, you have so many different people that have different perspectives of how technology should be part of their lives.”
Mitsubishi is a niche player in the global automotive market. It is unlikely to be a leader in electric car or autonomous driving technology but, thanks to its association with Nissan and Renault, it will have access to both. That access may be the lifeline the company needs to remain a viable competitor in North America.