Mitsubishi reverses Europe exit with plans to sell Renault models
Mitsubishi is to keep a hand in European new car sales by selling two rebadged Groupe Renault models for selected left-hand drive markets.
Mitsubishi had announced in summer 2020 that it was freezing the development and introduction of new models for Europe including the UK, instead focusing on the ASEAN markets and shifting its strategy from expansion to concentration.
But in a statement today (10 March 2021), Takao Kato, CEO Mitsubishi Motors, said the newly announced OEM supply agreement with its Alliance partner will provide it “with a solution to offer new products developed and manufactured in Europe – alongside our ongoing aftersales business”.
Which two models Mitsubishi will rebadge has not been announced yet but they are said to be sister models that will continue to be produced in Groupe Renault plants and based on the same Renault platforms but differentiated to reflect the Mitsubishi brand.
The joint statement from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance said the sale of the rebadged Renault models alongside the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV would enable Mitsubishi to be more competitive in the European market.
Mitsubishi’s Takao Kato commented: “Mitsubishi Motors welcomes Renault’s OEM models for the European market, and ultimately new customers. Mitsubishi Motors has been implementing structural reforms in Europe and our decision to freeze new car development for the European market, announced in July 2020 in our mid-term business plans, remains. However, the OEM supply agreement will provide us with a solution to offer new products developed and manufactured in Europe – alongside our ongoing aftersales business.”
However, the new models will only be sold in select left-hand drive markets and there will be no right-hand drive versions for the UK. Mitsubishi Motors in the UK has since stressed that it is progressing with its previously announced plans to sell its existing range of vehicles until the autumn – at which point it will transition into an aftersales-only business to ensure the 400,000 Mitsubishi vehicles on UK roads continue to receive full support in terms of maintenance and aftersales well into the future.
There had been concerns over the ongoing support for drivers and fleets once the brand exits sales; its Outlander PHEV Commercial model has proved particularly popular, including with operators such as DEFRA, which announced earlier this month that it has ordered further models.
Details of how Mitsubishi’s aftersales operation will work in the UK are still be announced, particularly as a number of Mitsubishi dealers have now left the network following the announcement last summer.
A potential U-turn on Mitsubishi’s plans to exit Europe had been reported in February 2021 by the Financial Times, which said that Mitsubishi had been coming under increasing pressure from Renault and Nissan, but could now face accusations that it’s yielded to a Renault campaign to protect French jobs; the French government has a 15% stake in Renault.
Previously announced plans by the Alliance in May 2020 had designated different parts of the world as “reference regions,” with each company set to focus on its core regions, with Renault focused on Europe among other markets, while Mitsubishi Motors would concentrate on ASEAN and Oceania.
In today’s statement, the Alliance partners said they have since been working on several initiatives in line with this, “enhancing competitiveness and realising further growth of the three partner companies by leveraging their respective leadership positions and geographic strengths”.
Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of the Alliance Operating Board and Renault, said: “I am very happy to see Mitsubishi Motors building a new line-up in Europe. The Alliance aims to enhance competitiveness and enable more effective resource-sharing for the benefit of all three companies. Our approach is collaborative, relying on mutual respect, with a clear intention to boost the performance of each company, allowing individual companies to capitalize on their own strengths, avoid duplication of resources and improve efficiencies.”