Will Mitsubishi Finally Enter the U.S. Truck Market with a Compact Pickup?
In a country like the United States, where pickup trucks dominate the market, it would be inevitable for automakers like Mitsubishi to consider producing what the consumers want. But things may change for the company as there are some indications that the dry spell for pickup trucks may soon end. Last year, automotive news outlets reported spy shots of a pickup truck drive-testing in Colorado. Is this a hint that Mitsubishi finally entering the market with a compact pickup truck?
Successful outside U.S.
Mitsubishi is known for its Mirage sedans, including various hatchback and SUV models. For the 40th anniversary celebration in the United States, the company has launched special editions of its famous Outlander SUV.
However, it is not a tremendously famous brand, particularly for pickup trucks. For many Americans, Mitsubishi is not as successful as Toyota. Even though Mitsubishi is a fellow Asian carmaker, Toyota prospers in the automotive market in the United States.
It is easy to overlook Mitsubishi due to its limited presence in North America, so some people think it is a non-entity. Despite the low sales compared to American brands like Ford, Ram, and Chevrolet — Mitsubishi sold thousands of vehicles.
The company has been in the auto business for a long time but has not released any new pickup truck model since the late 1990s. But if you like classic vehicles, you may remember the Ram 50 or the Arrow.
Part of the history
Currently, the pickup truck segment is where Mitsubishi has a lot of global success, not including North America. Believe it or not — Mitsubishi was a part of the U.S. truck scene.
Chrysler imported compact pickup trucks in the early 1990s, and Dodge and Plymouth dealers used to sell them. The rebadged versions of the mini-truck sold by Mitsubishi’s dealers as the Mighty Max. Since Mitsubishi has sold its small Triton pickup as the Mighty Max in the past, they can continue the lineage of the truck to this day.
The Triton is famous in Southeast Asia and Australia. It has an eminent appeal to many customers. Replacing the stock rims with KMC wheels, and putting on new mud flaps, running boards, and other truck accessories can help customize its looks.
Mitsubishi demonstrates the capability of its pickup. It was proven by the Ralliart race truck, which won the 2022 Asia Cross Country Rally. Although the current truck model is aging, it has potential for the American market.
Made by Mitsubishi
Outside North America, Mitsubishi offers a pickup truck model named Forte. It is also called L200 in the United Kingdom, and Triton in other nations. The name has later changed to Strada in some Asian countries.
The Triton is famous outside America. It was rated to carry a ton of cargo, especially the 4×4 version released in 1980. That 4×4 truck has become the basis for a variety of four-wheel-drive, including the SUVs in the company’s lineup.
The trucks from Mitsubishi sold by Dodge and Plymouth were used for fleets and other commercial purposes but were also great for personal use and recreation. The pickups manufactured by the Asian automaker are reliable for off-roading, incredibly if you upgrade some parts, such as the wheels, mud tires, suspension, and more.
Mitsubishi faces some challenge
The company’s director acknowledged the challenges involved with entering the truck market in the United States. In a report published by the automotive news outlet, The Drive, Mitsubishi’s director for product planning, Carson Grover, said one of those things they want to figure out is pickup trucks.
Grover said that Mitsubishi does not dismiss the idea of producing a new pickup for the U.S. market. However, aside from competing with a lot of rivals that offer pickup trucks, Mitsubishi will encounter some snags if they ever push through with their truck plans.
The company will face hurdles, such as the heavy 25 percent tariff on imported trucks called the Chicken Tax. The old preferential measure against foreign-built small trucks hinders the current Triton from coming to the United States. Due to the hefty tax percentage, multinational automakers like Nissan and Toyota build trucks within the country instead of manufacturing from other nations.
Mitsubishi does not have manufacturing plants in the U.S. right now. According to Grover, Mitsubishi cannot just wedge the Triton truck into a competitor’s plant in America. Those who would love to own a Mitsubishi truck as part of their vehicle collection will be slapped with high fees to import one. To some automakers that do not originate in the United States, the Chicken Tax may seem like an obstacle to importing pickup trucks.
Partnering with another automaker
In the interview, Grover said that anything the company would do is still hypothetical. However, if the plans come to fruition, the company would likely have to go to an alliance partner to build a pickup truck.
Mitsubishi may need to partner with another company if it pushes to bring a truck manufactured in another country. It already has access to significant technical resources through the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Nissan partly owned Mitsubishi since 2016. The alliance partnership can benefit both companies, as they can join forces to create something for the American pickup truck market. The two companies could form a vehicle based on the Frontier and merge different ideas from Mitsubishi.
Mitsubishi wants to meet the desire of the customers by offering a pickup truck with outstanding reliability, payload performance, and durability. It also has impressive utility, drivability, and comfort on par with a sedan.
Possibility of a compact truck
It is unmistakable that Mitsubishi is interested in venturing into pickup trucks. In the interview with The Drive, the director for product planning was careful not to mention details, so it would not sound like any announcement. Nonetheless, he name-dropped Ford’s compact truck Maverick.
It could imply that Mitsubishi is gearing towards entering the American truck market. People will have to wait as the company takes things slowly for now, and no official announcement yet. But if Mitsubishi considers joining the compact truck division, it would be more attainable than the saturated market of mid and full-size segments.