Mitsubishi Hooks Up With Renault-Nissan, Will Borrow Korean-Made Renault Latitude for Next Galant

“Desperation,” says a corrupt cop in the movie Super Troopers, “is a stinky cologne.” Alas, how it must smell at the headquarters of Mitsubishi Motors, which has just released its umpteenth business “revitalization” or “turnaround” plan in umpteen-times-two years. Sales and public image have shriveled in the U.S. and western Europe, which were once core markets for Mitsubishi. Australians were so fond of Mitsus in the 1980s and 1990s that the company operated a factory there, but by 2008 this demand had diminished so much that the only thing “outback” for Mitsubishi Motors Australia is where the manufacturing business was taken and shot. Moving forward, then, Mitsubishi bosses now say that the company will double-down on trucks and SUVs, which together make up two out of three Mitsubishi vehicles sold worldwide. So called “emerging markets”—countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where increasing numbers of people are moving from poverty to able-to-buy-a-cheap-new-car status—dominate Mitsubishi’s current sales and will be the focus of future efforts. Beyond those vehicles, Mitsubishi will look to outside companies to partner in developing new cars and new technology. Case in point: the simultaneous announcement of a hook-up with Renault-Nissan.

The Next Galant, Via the Nissan-Renault Alliance Alliance

Mitsubishi and Renault-Nissan say they’re exploring an atlas-worth of avenues for collaboration, especially electrification. But two plans for vehicles are listed specifically—including one that would replace the now-10-year-old Mitsubishi Galant in the U.S.

First, Renault-Nissan will supply Mitsubishi with a sedan “to compete in the full-size D-segment markets of the United States and Canada.” The car will be manufactured in Renault’s subsidiary Samsung’s plant in South Korea. (Samsung is to Renault what Daewoo/GM Korea is to GM).

Not coincidentally, Renault-Samsung is already building a D-segment sedan at its factory in South Korea, called Renault Latitude or Samsung SM5, depending on where it’s sold. The car is the outcome of Renault’s realization that nobody wants to buy large, expensive French sedans except the French—and even then, not all that many. So in the same way GM centered development of the Chevy Sonic and Spark with its South Korean division, Renault did the same with the Latitude. And much like the Sonic and Spark, the Latitude is competent, if dull. Neither the voluptuous style nor the voluptuous ride of an archetypical French sedan are present.

It’s that car, ladies and gentlemen, that looks like the best candidate to become the next Galant. Two people who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity say that it’s unclear whether the current Renault Latitude, which launched in 2010, would be the donor, or the next-generation model due in about two years.

Second, a Renault-Nissan platform would underpin a C-segment model to be sold globally. This means a vehicle about the size of the Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, or Renault Megane. The companies have not described timing on this, and they say the manufacturing location is “under discussion,” so we might be talking about a Mitsubishi based on a Nissan or Renault that exists today, or one based on a future model and platform. Ironically, the current Mitsubishi Lancer also has shared architecture. Back in the days when there was such a thing as DaimlerChrysler, it worked with Mitsubishi on a platform that became the basis of, among others, the Sebring/200, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Patriot, and Jeep Compass.

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Other New Mitsubishi Models, and Not an Eclipse or 3000GT to be Seen

In addition to those Renault-based models, here are the vehicles that Mitsubishi’s business plan says the brand will be rolling out in the next few years. Don’t expect many of them to come to the U.S.

In 2014, Mitsubishi will launch a new pickup truck, called the Triton in most markets. About the size of the Toyota Tacoma and upcoming Chevy Colorado. The 25-percent “chicken tax” on trucks imported to the U.S. makes selling it here a nonstarter.

In 2015 “and after”:

New generations of the Pajero and Pajero Sport, which you know better as the Montero and Montero Sport (the last Montero we had in the U.S. is still sold in other countries, albeit with some updates. The Pajero Sport is a new generation of the last Montero Sport we got.)
New RVR, or Outlander Sport.
New Delica D:3, a small minivan.

What’s not in either Mitsubishi’s business plan nor the Renault-Nissan announcement is any mention of the one Mitsubishi most of us actually really like—the Evo. Presumably, it’d be spun off of the C-segment sedan the two companies are talking about. But that means either Mitsubishi would be modifying an existing Nissan or Renault to create an Evo, or contributing to a future platform that’s still years away. Neither is an attractive option, but the most likely future for the Evo nameplate, it seems, is its death altogether. That’d stink a lot more than the desperation.

About Justin Berkowitz