The announcement was made completely out of the blue, and whilst the wording calls the move a “freeze”, the chances of Mitsubishi reversing its decision are slim-to-none. It means that the brand is sacrificing its place as the seller of the UK's most popular PHEV as well as its electric ambitions for Europe.
Yep; the UK's (and Europe's) most popular PHEV, of which 50,000 have been sold since 2014 in the UK alone, will no longer be available as a new car here. We were looking forward to the fourth-generation Outlander, which was coming in the not-too-distant future, as well as the introduction of the brand's second PHEV – the Eclipse Cross plug-in hybrid.
This withdrawal also means that any EVs being developed within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance won't be wearing the three-diamond badge.
There are two main reasons; lack of profitability in Europe, and emissions. Mitsubishi made a loss in Europe in Q1 of this year (of over £1.3bn) and holds less than one per cent of the market. In south east Asia, it is a different story with the brand being profitable and taking 6.4 per cent of the market. Rather than flogging a metaphorical dead horse in the west, Mitsubishi is concentrating on its profitable regions in order to both increase its operating profits and grow its market share.
The other side of this is the fact that the brand was going to struggle to meet European emissions targets – despite the popularity of the Outlander PHEV. It would have potentially been facing significant fines, so rather than bring new cars to market, such as its new Eclipse Cross PHEV or a new EV, it's simply going to sell residual stock until the new regulations come in, and Mitsubishi's cars stop being compliant.
On the business side of things, there are two main victims of this move here in the UK. Firstly, long-term importer, Colt Cars, has suddenly found itself without a rug beneath its feet having not been forewarned of the move. It stated that it “did not, at any point, anticipate receiving this news”.
Secondly, the brand's 103-strong UK dealer network is having to come to terms with forthcoming the loss of its franchise. This is particularly difficult for franchisees of the brand as many are smaller businesses with Mitsubishi as their sole franchise.
Perhaps the silver lining in the metaphorical mushroom cloud for all business parties is that Colt Cars is already exploring bringing up-and-coming brands into the UK. Theoretically, if this comes off the dealer network could take on a new franchise. Furthermore, there have been rumours that another Alliance brand (Renault or Nissan) could be offered in place of Mitsubishi, but this is pure rumour at the moment.
The good news is that dealer support isn't suddenly going to go away. In fact, “for the foreseeable future” (according to a Mitsubishi spokesperson) there will be brand new Mitsubishis still available to buy from stock – potentially with a decent discount applied to get them shifted.
With regards warranties and aftersales, our current understanding is that the former will be honoured and the latter will be well catered for through the importer – the Colt Car Company. Our assumption is that many existing franchised dealers will become approved parts and servicing locations, as well as used Mitsubishi centres. They have the knowledge and are compliant with existing Mitsubishi brand standards, so it would make sense for them to continue offering aftersales. So don't despair – you will be covered!
Mitsubishi's decision is a shock in the sense that nobody was expecting it to happen so abruptly and without warning. That being said, there are a number of brands for which European homologation is a pain in the proverbial, and their profitability (or lack thereof) in the region barely makes it worthwhile – especially when it comes to emissions (Subaru springs to mind...). Of course, it's a real shame to lose an innovative and historically interesting brand, but given that any EVs it was planning on selling here were being developed as part of the Alliance, we're likely to get them with a Nissan or Renault badge on the front anyway. And whilst we may lose Mitsubishi, we may well gain another up-and-coming EV maker if the distributor's plans come off.