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My good vibes about my new egg-shaped forlorn electric car known as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV have got to be retroactive. Despite the lineup that it has, Mitsubishi’s sales performance has been strong in recent years. I love that for them. I think. Sorry, my sarcasm pills are currently being metabolized in my liver.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened?

Mitsubishi recently announced sales results for 2021, and things were fairly good, all things considered. Like, 100,000 units good. In fact, Mitsubishi has moved more than 100,000 units for four out of the past five years. Specifically, 2019 was the company’s best year since 2007 with 121,046 units sold, roughly double the 62,227 units sold in 2014, and the general trend has been going up. The only year out of the past five it didn’t move 100,000 units was 2020, which we all know was a dumpster-fire year of COVID-related shutdowns and the beginning of the complete unraveling of global supply chains.

If you parse out Mitsubishi’s sales numbers, the Outlander Sport leads Mitsubishi’s sales charts, with 34,216 units moved last year. The completely unrelated Nissan-based Outlander comes in second place at 33,883 (2,250 more for the Outlander PHEV). Even the dinky rattle-can rollerskate Mirage moved a healthy 22,741 units.

For reference, Mitsubishi sold more than five times the amount of cars that Alfa Romeo did.

Why It Matters

It doesn’t take an optometrist to see that Mitsubishi’s lineup is old and bad. The Outlander Sport is on its third facelift. It’s the automotive equivalent of when your mom batch-made spaghetti on Sunday evening and served it for dinner every day for the next week. It is now the proverbial Friday, and here we are, still eating nearly week-old spaghetti. Underneath, the Outlander Sport and Mirage are basically the same cars that were introduced in 2010 and 2014, respectively. 


This suggests how absolutely starved for product the American car market is. True, Mitsubishi’s appeal of a basic, cheap, mechanically robust vehicle could be appealing to a curmudgeon on a budget, but outside of that vacuum, Mitsubishi’s lineup is generally bad. The $11,000 discounted Mirage G4 I wrote about last year no longer exists, and even the most spartan Mirages have rocketed back up to (or even surpassed) their kind of high MSRP. 

New cars selling at their MSRP sans incentives does mean good things for Mitsubishi’s bottom line, but buyers might find themselves trapped in lackluster cars with not-so-good depreciation figures. It doesn’t matter what it is right now, if it has four wheels and an engine, someone will buy it. Except for the Eclipse Cross, which peaked at 19,661 units in 2019 but dropped to 10,319 units in 2020 and 8,947 units in 2021. Apparently the name has not been enough to keep people interested.

What To Expect Next

It seems like Mitsubishi might be primed for a renaissance. The Mirage, Eclipse Cross, and Outlander Sport aren’t so good, but reviews for the new Nissan-based Outlander have been fairly positive. Mitsubishi has more new (and likely Nissan-based) product in the pipeline. If it can somehow keep the momentum going, but with better cars, Mitsuishi just might pull itself from laughing stock to a competitor that we all can take seriously, for once in a long time.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for a modern Starion or Galant VR-4, though. 

  • Car Bibles launched a new series, Car Confessions and Hard Lessons. In the first installment, Victoria Scott writes how she learned that her beloved Toyota Supra wasn’t her entire identity.
  • Kevin Williams bought a rear-engined RWD car for basically nothing. Spoiler: It’s a Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
  • EV test drive and review: The 2021 Polestar 2 feels like a Lancer Evo made by Crate & Barrel.
  • Mercedes-Benz previously said three-box sedans look bad as electric cars. The 620-mile Vision EQXX Concept shows off its alternative design.

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