Mitsubishi Wants to Sell Pickup Trucks in the US Again
There are some obstacles, but Mitsubishi may have a way to reenter the U.S. truck market—and the Ford Maverick is on its radar.
Mitsubishi isn't on most U.S. car buyers' radars, but it's gradually changing that with compelling new models like the 2023 Outlander PHEV. It wants a bigger piece of the pie, and it's interested in reentering the huge U.S. pickup truck market as revealed by its Director for Product Planning in North America, Cason Grover.
"It's another one of those things we want to try to figure out," Grover said of the U.S. pickup market at the Outlander PHEV's launch. "We'd love to be able to do it."
"It’s an area we're certainly interested in because we have a lot of global success. We have history in the U.S. as well," Grover added.
As Grover mentioned, Mitsubishi has a history of pickups in the United States, having sold its small Triton pickup as the Mighty Max, and as a captive import in the shape of the Dodge Ram 50. Abroad, the Triton's lineage continues to this day, with the truck remaining popular in Australia and Southeast Asia. While the current model is aging, its greater potential is only just starting to manifest, as proven by the Ralliart race truck that won the 2022 Asia Cross Country Rally. There's still eminent appeal there, though the current Triton can't come here due to the Chicken Tax—the longstanding protectionist measure against foreign-built small trucks.
"At the end of the day, we don't have U.S. manufacturing right now, and fundamentally the Chicken Tax is [an obstacle to importing pickup trucks]," Grover said. "You can't just wedge that [global Triton] into somebody else's plant over [here].
"So anything we would do—and this is just hypothetical—we'd likely have to go to an alliance partner that does build [one]."
Grover refers to the recently restructured Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, of which only Nissan has production facilities in the States. It just so happens that Nissan makes the Frontier in Mississippi, which might mean there's room for a Mitsubishi version of the sharp-driving crew-cab. This may not be Mitsubishi's only option, as Grover pointed to room for an even smaller truck, demand for which has been proven by the Ford Maverick.
"The [Ford] Ranger, the old Ranger, that was much smaller, had so much volume and was around so long," Grover said. "The Maverick really almost [does] what the Ranger used to do, being affordable."
A unibody Mitsubishi pickup may be easier to bring about than you think, too. Mitsubishi already uses the platform of the Nissan Rogue—made in Tennessee—for the Outlander, so it's not hard to imagine tweaking that architecture more to build a pickup in that same plant. For now, however, Grover emphasized that a Mitsubishi pickup remains hypothetical, appealing though it may be.
"We know it’s been a growth area," Grover said of the U.S. pickup market. "At this point, it appears that'll continue."
"It's a no-future-plan-to-announce [situation], but we certainly... we noticed, put it that way. And we've got history."
And a future too, perhaps, if Mitsubishi carries its momentum forward and makes itself a force to be reckoned with again. The world wouldn't be a worse place with another fun pickup out there, especially if it's by a company with an off-road legacy as hallowed as Mitsubishi's.
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