By on July 28, 2014

1024px-Mitsubishi_Delica_D5_001

 

 

In April, when they released their FY2013 annual results, MMC (Mitsubishi Motors Corp) reported record profits; see Reuters and Automotive News for stories.

Don’t get too excited.

Mitsubishi Motors’ North American operations are struggling; MMC sells far less than any other Asian car company in North America. The next smallest, Mazda, sold almost three and a half times as many vehicles in April 2014. Only six firms sold fewer cars, and of those only Volvo is not a niche luxury marque. (The other five, in decline order of sales, are Jaguar/Land-Rover, Porsche, Tesla, Maserati and Ferrari.)

There are positive signs, with April sales up 46.6% over 2013 and year to date sales up 29%. Only Maserati had a larger increase, but they sold 753 vehicles last year, so that shift represents only a few additional cars. On the other hand, among manufacturers building cars for mainstream customers, Mitsubishi sells the least, so its percentage increase likewise represents only a modest absolute change. Nevertheless Mitsubishi has been improving its North American operation, with net sales up 53% from 2012 to 2013.

Such sales however mean that MMC’s Illinois plant – begun in 1988 as Diamond-Star during the era when Chrysler was a major shareholder – continues to operate in the red. Whether or not Mitsubishi will be able to mount a comeback from the brink of essentially complete failure in North America will depend heavily on the continued expansion of their share and the overall vehicle market. Summer sales are expected to be substantial enough to grow the car market in 2014 over 2013, but that increase won’t be enough to float MMC. Mitsubishi will likely see its sales cannibalized by the other automakers and go the way Suzuki, Isuzu and Daihatsu, Japanese firms that have completely withdrawn from North America. Ultimately it may prove a Saab story.

But their problems aren’t just the US. They’ve pulled out of production in Europe, selling their Nedcar facility. They’ve just restructured debt with their four main creditors – and largest shareholders – who took an average 25% haircut on their preferred shares, to the tune of ¥95 billion (US$950 million). [This is made clear only in their Japanese-language filings.] Perhaps MMC’s shareholders want a tax writeoff and figure their last bailout won’t be recouped. But it also provides MMC with a clean ownership structure that would make a sale easier. Whether anyone would want to buy them is less clear: the company has a stormy history that includes 2 failed sales and an unenviable strategic position. They aren’t unique in this; many other small firms have failed or changed hands in the past half dozen years. But my guess is they’re more likely to provide a Saab story than any of the other Japanese bit players.

Mitsubishi Motors’ origins saddled it with an inefficient structure. During World War II Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) made munitions ranging from warships to the Zero fighter. After 1945 the US Occupation split up the firm into 3 pieces, each of which made different sorts of motor vehicles – three-wheeled cars, scooters, commercial trucks – as they struggled to find things to sell in the grim 1940s and early 1950s. After the Occupation ended MHI’s former pieces merged. The end result was the Mizushima plant in western Japan producing minicars (“kei” cars), Okazaki in central Japan making passenger cars, and Maruko in Tokyo (eastern Japan) making trucks, all within the larger MHI with its industrial machinery, shipbuilding and heavy equipment operations.

Then along came Chrysler, wanting to source small cars in Japan to provide dealers with something to compete against the VW Beetle, which in 1968 sold 600,000 units in the US. (Ford and GM did the same thing, eventually ending up with controlling stakes in Toyo Kogyo – renamed Mazda to echo its brand – and Isuzu.) In 1970 MHI bundled together the three automotive pieces into MMC and set it up as an independent company, with Chrysler to take a 35% stakeholding (which under Japanese corporate law would give them veto rights and hence de facto control). But Chrysler entered one of its periodic crises and couldn’t raise the cash, leaving it with a 15% stake in an unwieldy company. MHI and its bankers remained as the dominant shareholders. While MMC and Chrysler set up Diamond-Star, a joint venture assembly plant in Illinois that opened in 1988, by 1991 Chrysler had sold its share in MMC and various joint ventures.

[An aside: Chrysler purchased its stake in direct contravention to Japanese industrial policy of preventing foreign ownership in the industry – when push came to shove the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI, now MEXT) lacked the clout to make such policies stick, cf. IBM’s operations in Japan.]

Then in 2000 DaimlerChrysler bought into MMC, eventually holding 37.5% of the company. But MMC performed poorly, not helped by Daimler’s management, and by 2004 that stake was sold off, with Daimler keeping MMC’s truck division, Fuso, the one piece that made strategic sense for its Asian production base and array of drivetrains.

In the background is a rollercoaster history of a piece with Chrysler. The initial spinoff from MHI coincided with the success of the Galant passenger car in Japan, alongside a good position in the growing “kei” market and in the heavy truck and bus market – which by the way meant that the 3 original production bases remained fiefdoms. MMC then entered the US market, as did the partners in the other Detroit Three alliances. Unlike Isuzu and Mazda, both of which ceased production in the US, MMC has yet to shutter its plant in Illinois, despite low capacity utilization and poor North American sales. Inside Japan sales did well during Japan’s bubble, with MMC introducing new brands, including the luxury Diamante. Again, given the bubble context, that didn’t go well. Next MMC rode the sport utility boom with the Pajero, its Jeep-like product. It was the first firm to do so in Japan, and until rivals entered it earned a lot of money.

Meanwhile it expanded overseas, with assembly plants not just in the US but also NedCar in Europe (from 1991), Chrysler’s old operation in Australia (from 1980), a tie-up with Proton in Malaysia, an engine and later transmission plant and CKD operation in the Philippines, and stand-alone operations with a proper assembly plant in Thailand. Finally, on an ad hoc basis MMC also exported plant and equipment to various firms, including Hyundai and Proton.

Most fared poorly. Its domestic bubble-era brands are gone, as are NedCar (closed in 2012) and Australian (2008) operations. Domestically it turned out a bit over 500,000 vehicles in 2013, but 60% of those were exported. With the yen weak (today at ¥101 per US$) exports are now profitable. Exports are also the focus of their US operations, which currently turn out 70,000 SUVs a year. But exports are an expedient, not a strategy, only grasping at a short-term profit source. Meanwhile, 60% of domestic sales are of minicars. That’s good news, because sales of that segment are rising (up 10% over the last year) but it’s also bad news, because low-priced cars cannot possibly generate the profits needed to keep the company going.

International operations look better, centered in Thailand with joint ventures in China and Russia. In terms of production they are the same order of magnitude as MMC’s domestic operations. But because most of domestic production is exported, the international-to-domestic sales mix is closer to 90:10 than 50:50. What has tided the company over domestically were one-off OEM deals with Nissan, Honda and others. But again, that’s a temporary expedient; there’s no history in the auto industry over the past century, in the US or elsewhere, of sustained interfirm trading. Much more solid are its pickups in Thailand and SUVs in other developing markets such as Russia and China.

Jan-May 2014 change
Domestic Production 273,429 +41%
Domestic Sales 62,954 +14%
Regular Cars 21,376 -19%
Kei Cars 29,708 +104%
Commercial Vehicles 11,870 -16%
Exports 147,190 +12%
Overseas Production 257,781 -5%
Total Production 531,210 +14%
Domestic Sales/Total Production 12%

In Japan, Europe and North American its dealership networks remain weak. For example, in Japan it was late to expand into urban areas, and so had poor locations and poor franchisees. In order to finance its urban presence MMC resorted to supplying cash in turn for equity stakes in dealers. It then dispatched managers from the manufacturing side, who have not proved adept at selling cars – Tesla be warned! In North America and Europe it is hampered by years of poor sales and an uncertain product strategy. (TTAC product reviews of the Mirage and Outlander are less than stellar, while noting the lack of a clear lineup.) Only repeated infusions of equity from the Mitsubishi family of companies kept it afloat, and 25% of those have now been written off.

Thus MMC is a firm with a strong presence in Southeast Asia; it’s basically a Thai firm with lots of engineering facilities and a few underutilized factories in Japan. It has modest operations in China, though as typical of late entrants its factories are scattered from Manchuria to Guangzhou. Then there’s a production base in Japan. Its product lineup is good for the developing world, but in 3 of the 4 largest markets – North America, Europe and Japan – its product mix is weak. The company is thus claiming it will ride emerging market dynamism to success. Elsewhere – in developed markets – its proclaimed focus is electric vehicles, to me a dim idea. But where will it be able to generate profits sufficient to sustain its engineering operations and factories in Japan? Exports only work while the yen remains weak. And without a steady stream of new products, all facing the expensive engineering challenges of increasing demands for fuel efficiency, low emissions, safety and connectivity, it can’t survive.

So selling the firm strikes me as their last straw. There’s a problem: for whom would a purchase make sense? Its current alliances with Nissan-Renault make that a possible option, as they can potentially use MMC’s plants (though not its dealers) in the US and Japan). Perhaps a Chinese company can be tempted, as with PSA and Volvo. But as I see it, FiatChrysler is the one global player with a footprint in North America and Europe that lacks a strong presence in China and developing Asia, the regions where MMC is least weak. If so, this would be the third attempt involving some iteration of Chrysler. But remember, three strikes and they’re out. And that will be MMC’s fate, if it can’t sell itself before the yen again strengthens.

To reiterate: I believe they’re more likely to be a Saab story.

 

N.B. This draws upon a post by my student, Anton Reed W&L’14 in May 2014 for Economics 244. The Prof edited it and appended the global story.

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41 Comments on “Mitsubishi Motors: And Then There Were…...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    TL;DR for work, will read at home.
    But what is that lovely little minivan? Offspring of an Element and Transit Connect?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Delica! Looks to be a 4×4 model as well, sitting up so high. Canada got them for a little while in the 90s, and they fetch a pretty penny nowadays. Of course they wouldn’t sell that here, as people would want them.

      It picks up where the MPV left off after 98.

      • 0 avatar
        raincoaster

        We have a 96, RHD imported from Japan. True 4×4 with locking diff and low gear. goes anywhere, gets 30 mpg highway with its turbo diesel.

        We paid about 10k for ours with 70k kms after importing fees and updating to Canadian standards as well as minor maintenance (mostly on rubber parts).

  • avatar
    NN

    If they sold that minivan (Delica, I believe) in the US, they’d likely have at least one additional sale this year.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know. My experience with the Delica was OK at best. I think it is one of those vans that looks good in the photos but up close leaves a lot to be desired.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      @NN

      I would be all over that thing if it were available here. It looks so Honda-ish. It’s what the Fit should be. I’d trade my CR-V for a Honda of that form factor in a heartbeat, and I’d sure give this Mitsu a chance.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Your Saab story meme is a Saab story by itself, and a blight on this otherwise informative article.

    Chrysler would sustain such losses in putting the NA and European operations out of their misery that I doubt it would be worth it. Plus [and as usual] when Chrysler ties with Mitsubishi, it’s the Chrysler products that suffer. So we get cheapo Chry-Mit products for a few years as they try and rebadge here and there to amortize costs in shutting down the aforementioned NA/Euro sales. China wouldn’t make up for that. Avoid!

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Re: Saab story. I agree completely. I get the joke, but Saab’s situation was/is so completely different that the repeated references really dilute this article.

      Saab is a single-factory premium manufacturer that tried to survive within a massive, mass-market conglomerate, and that got sold-off at a time when it was politically expedient to appear to be doing something. What are the parallels with Mitsubishi, exactly? They both built cars, so there’s that, and they both share names with companies that built airplanes. Honestly, I could make stronger links between HP and Mitsubishi if I had to.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Smitka

      Yeh, I was hoping the editor would cut out one of the Saab references, and I suspect even once was too much, the pun was lame and can’t be original with me. But Saab was only modestly premium, and if you look at MMC only their Okazaki plant was regular cars, so it wasn’t a big footprint, very dependent on having a single strong model.

      Anyway, I got tired of staring at the screen at some point and hit submit rather than clean up my prose. I managed to mangle table formatting, too.

      To address one of the other comments, a lot of consolidation has already taken place. In the 1950s there were about 30 companies that made cars, most were swallowed up by others (Toyota took over Central Jidosha and Kanto Jidosha, Nissan took over Prince, and as noted MMC was a merger of 3 independent companies.) So today we have Toyota with subsidiaries / affiliates Hino, Daihatsu, Isuzu and Subaru [the latter two both former GM affiliates]; Nissan as part of Renault; Honda; Mazda [former Ford]; MMC [former Chrysler and Daimler]; Suzuki [former VW and former GM affiliate]. So the minor players – Subaru, Mazda, MMC, Suzuki – have all been part of shifting alliances, though Suzuki long dominated the Indian car market through Maruti so is quite distinct. And in heavy trucks Isuzu, Hino, Nissan Diesel and MMC have all shifted to become affiliates of a larger firm, the latter two of non-Japan-HQ companies.

      • 0 avatar
        notferris

        Mike,
        First of all, I commend you on this in-depth piece.
        If you would allow, I would like to offer some additional information that you, and other readers here, might find interesting.

        While I must admit that I disagree with some of your opinions and your conclusion, I am not posting to challenge you or change anyone’s mind. Rather, I view this as a friendly exchange of information that may lead to an interesting discussion.

        Q1 2014 Financials are available here:
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2014/140730-3h

        1) Mitsubishi in the U.S.
        It needs to be noted that Mitsubishi’s low volume is in part due to the fact that three nameplates were eliminated from 2011 to 2012 (Endeavor, Eclipse/Eclipse Spyder , Galant).
        Much of the sales increase Mitsubishi is seeing this year is due to the launch of the Mirage, although the Outander and Oulander Sport are contributing as well (up 38% & 23% respectively).
        With Mitsubishi’s plan to source a rebadged midsize sedan from Renault-Nissan it stands to reason sales will increase further (unless, of course, the vehicle is an utter dud…). Mitsubishi has additional model plans to increase sales, including the return of a Montero-sized SUV.
        http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/mitsubishis-future-plans-include-hybrids-major-model-overhaul.html

        While Mitsubishi operations as a whole are in the red, the manufacturing plant is operating near break-even.
        http://www.autobytel.com/mitsubishi/outlander-sport/2011/car-buying-guides/mitsubishi-outlander-sport-fills-production-void-in-illinois-plant-104605/

        Furthermore, losses are declining and U.S. operations are expected to break-even as a whole this fiscal year (see page 3 on the Mid-Term Business Plan and page 9 on the FY2014 Q1 Financial Results PDF respectively).
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2013/131106-1c
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2014/140730-3h

        Mitsubishi has stated its intent to use the Normal, IL factory for export and possibly add another model for production to that end (subscription req’d).
        http://www.autonews.com/article/20121203/OEM02/312039989/mitsubishis-u.s.-rebound-plan:-boost-lineup-add-output

        Additionally, the company doubled marketing/ad spend for 2013 and has maintained the same level for 2014.
        http://www.autoblog.com/2014/07/08/2016-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-us-will-be-completely-different/

        Finally, analysts no longer believe Mitsubishi will withdraw from the U.S.
        http://www.dallasnews.com/business/autos-latest-news/20140521-embattled-mitsubishi-finally-finds-a-little-room-to-run.ece

        Thus, to recap, in the U.S. Mitsubishi is addressing three main issues by increasing ad spend, increasing production (possibly add another model and making exports a strategy), and adding back models to the lineup. Based on the aforementioned and all the effort and money being spent, I highly doubt they will withdraw from the U.S.

        2) Mitsubishi in Europe
        Mitsubishi had to close the plant in Born, NL since the it was hemorrhaging money, demand in Europe had collapsed (due to the financial crisis), and retooling would have been too costly (especially given the regional uncertainty). Plus, given the high cost of labor, it made little sense to build cars in Europe.
        http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/06/mitsubishimotors-idUSL4E8D50RW20120206

        It is in part thanks to the closure of the plant that Mitsubishi’s European operations rebounded to earnings of 37.2 billion Yen in just one year (sales also increased 11% and the Yen fell against the Pound Sterling and the Euro). See page 20:
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2014/140424-3f

        To recap, Mitsubishi is turning around very quickly in Europe thanks to the sale of Nedcar and to the success of of the Outlander PHEV.
        http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2014/07/11/112793-mitsubishi-continues-to-strengthen-its-positions-europe.html

        3) The Capital Restructuring
        English versions of the filings regarding the restructuring can be found on the Mitsubishi Motors corporate site in the press release section for both 2013 and 2014 (there are a total of 11 notices):
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/publish/pressrelease_en/corporate/2014/index.html

        The purpose of the capital restructuring was for Mitsubishi to start paying dividends again. A major reason for Japanese to own stock.
        Under Japanese law, a company that has cumulative losses cannot pay out dividends. Mitsubishi could not pay dividends to the preferred share holders and preferred shares ave no voting rights, essentially rendering them useless. It was in the four Mitsubishi group companies’ best interest to take the 25% discount just to start getting dividends to recoup the losses.
        http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/05/24/uk-mitsubishimotors-capital-idUKBRE94N0AW20130524
        http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323595004579070311305796806

        This does indeed give Mitsubishi a clean ownership structure. Mr. Masuko is now Chairman and CEO tasked with building on the partnerships the company has with other carmakers.
        http://europe.autonews.com/article/20140130/ANE/301309909/mitsubishi-motors-masuko-to-step-aside-as-president-to-focus-on

        Mr. Aikawa, the new President and COO, meanwhile is the son of former Mitsubishi Heavy Industries chairman Kentaro Aikawa. It is highly unlikely that the largest shareholder would appoint such a high-profile individual to the top post if they intended to sell the company.
        http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Mitsubishi-Motors-new-chief-is-tasked-with-shaking-off-negative-legacy

        It also needs to be noted that Mitsubishi has been profitable for the past five years and that for the most recent year their profit margin was at 5%. Page 3 for historical profit loss on the Mid-term Business Plan and page 2 on the FY2013 Financial Results.
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2013/131106-1c
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2014/140424-3f

        4) Mitsubishi in Japan
        The joint venture with Nissan to produce kei cars (named NMVK) has provided Mitsubishi with much higher production efficiency at the Mizushima plant thanks to the success of the EK Wagon/Dayz. See page 20.
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2013/131106-1c

        With the success of NMVK, Mitsubishi and Nissan have entered into a far-reaching product alliance. If the company can apply the lessons learned at NMVK, then they may well become the first non-capital tied automakers to be successful.
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/publish/pressrelease_en/corporate/2013/news/detaildb05.html

        The Okazaki plant has also been updated and is expected to run more efficiently.
        http://www.magnetimarelli.com/focus-on-automotive/mitsubishi-boost-production-its-plant-okazaki
        http://en.responsejp.com/article/2014/06/23/225984.html

        Moreover, capacity utilization has increased over the past 3 years and thanks to the aforementioned updates at both Mizushima and Okazki, is expected to keep rising. See page 19.
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/content/dam/com/ir_en/financial/2013/131106-1c

        Finally, to combat the specter of a rising Yen, Mitsubishi is not only moving more production overseas, but also increasing overseas parts procurement.
        http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/publish/pressrelease_en/corporate/2013/news/detail0907.html
        http://www.automotivelogisticsmagazine.com/interview/welcome-to-the-next-stage-for-mitsubishi

        Thus to recap.
        I doubt Mitsubishi will leave the U.S.
        Japanese plant utilization is increasing and the NMVK joint venture is a success, boding well for the expanded strategic partnership with Nissan.
        Mitsubishi is moving more production abroad to reduce Yen exposure. In addition to ASEAN capacity (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia), the company also has production ventures in China (w/GAC & Soueast),Vietnam, Bangladesh, Russia (w/PSA), and Brazil.
        The company had

        P.S. Mitsubishi was actually an early entrant into China, in 1986, albeit with just its Minicab truck. Sales for Q1 are up over 40% there.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mitsubishi’s problem over the last decade is that it continues trying to compete in the mainstream market, against solid competitors. They need to produce interesting niche vehicles instead.

    I actually think they could do well with EVs internationally – maybe – but the i-MiEV isn’t it. And they’d be facing Nissan everywhere.

    But I suspect they’re short on engineering and tooling resources, so putting together a multi-year development program for a (possibly) competitive vehicle just isn’t going to happen.

    They’re doomed.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This is a very detailed an in depth piece, kudos. Although you look at the global picture, MMNA still exists because of legacy assets and possibly fear/pressure over UAW. I’ll quote myself:

    “I think the sole reason Mitsubishi continues a presence in North America is its legacy assets in both the MMNA (Diamond Star) plant in Normal Illinois (which incidentally has UAW representation), and its dealer network. Diamond Star started out as a 50/50 joint operation with Chrysler, but in 1991 Mitsubishi bought Chrysler’s stake and it became MMNA in 1995. So Mitsubishi Int’l would be on the hook to sell or shut down the plant if North American operations were to fold. I am sure the UAW will ensure the shutdown costs are exceptionally high from the labor standpoint, not to mention whatever additional environmental or administrative costs EPA and the State of Illinois would levy in the event of a shutdown (as opposed to a sale, but who would buy it?). Not to mention the dealer network will probably sue unless a blanket settlement is offered similar to what Suzuki did in its departure (Suzuki was the trial balloon, IMO). This point of view explains why Mitsubishi’s North American R&D budget seems to be about eleven dollars, and why a Thai assembled “developing country” model like Mirage was brought in as opposed to something more appropriate for the North American market. But hey it’s a Filipino favorite, so its got that going for it.

    Additional: Mitsubishi Int’l may just be waiting for most or all of the current sub 2,500 employees of the plant to retire. If they honor their UAW contracts they will get far less resistance from all parties when it is time to shut down the plant. Then they could simply import models from elsewhere and failing that a brand revocation becomes much cheaper and easier.”

    http://paardensex.info/2014/07/review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/#comment-3535402

    PS: I thought the Saab reference was clever the first time you used it, but not by the third.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    For a while in the early 2000s, it looked like things were progressing towards combining MB, Chrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi into a top-5 global automaker. For various reasons, the union didn’t work out and each of the 4 parts went their separate ways. MB got cold feet and dumped everyone else, Hyundai decided they didn’t need to get married after all, Chrysler rebounded through Cerberus into the arms of Fiat, and Mitsubishi was left standing alone at the altar.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      “… Daimler keeping MMC’s truck division, Fuso, the one piece that made strategic sense for its Asian production base and array of drivetrains.”

      I didn’t know Daimler got 89% control of this purportedly profitable truck and bus group.

  • avatar
    George B

    Looked at their Thai product line and we’re not missing much. The Triton small pickup truck would be nice to have, but I don’t see the sales volume to redesign it or the Pajero/Outlander SUV. Their cars are completely uninteresting. I would guess that Mitsubishi gets shut down and various plant locations and production equipment get sold to the highest local bidder. Can’t see why any manufacturer would want the whole company. The one US plant location has the misfortune of sharing the same state with Chicago.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This was predictable 5-10 years ago when they stopped investing in competitive product. I rode in a new Outlander last week and was appalled that not only was it recently redesigned, Mitsubishi considered it competitive.

    They’ll never regain an equal market, i.e. Mirage = Fit, versa, etc….perhaps if they targeted unoccupied areas – small pickup, small passenger an….they might have a chance.

    Unlikely though…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Shhhh don’t mention small pickups you’ll rouse the neighbors.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        If they would import a really tiny pickup to America, like 1/13 the size of a Ford Fiesta, one that you had to ride on top of, they would sell millions. It is an untapped market.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          We have those – right? They’re from China and have a little four door cab and a tiny bed on little skinny wheels. My college got them right before my departure (08) for use by the landscaping people.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Yeah, those golf-cart sized microtrucks have been around for a while. Usually find them in the back lot at the Kubota or Deere dealers.

            Every once in a while, you’ll also seem some older Japanese kei trucks that have hit the 25-year DOT exemption, but those are actually (barely) road-legal.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Are those microtrucks road legal? They seemed to have everything needed for it. In which case, we “do” have Chinese cars here already.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            I know what you are talking about and damn it, those are actually cool to me. I have read that they are street legal in limited circumstances, but, due to advancing years, repeated blows to the head as a youth and adult, and alcohol consumption, I cannot remember the details.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I think some states have provisions that allow them to be used on roads with speed limits of 25 or 35 mph or so. The original impetus was giant retirement communities where the old folks just wanted to cruise around and visit without having to haul out the big car all the time.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            -Cuts to Jerry Seinfeld’s parents in the Fleetwood at the retirement community.-

            “It’s too expensive!”

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        If Mitsubishi would just sell an American made mid sized (or small), standard cab pickup with a manual transmission they will sell millions! Bonus points if it comes with a carburetor and crank windows.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        My first car was a 1986 Mitsubishi small pickup (aka Dodge D-50).

        It would have been an inctedibly dangerous vehicle if it weren’t so underpowered. I did learn to be a man-in-the-loop TCS/ABS/PCM. Is would also have been a human crumple zone if my 16 year old self had crashed it.

        We did a lot of work with that little truck, but the only thing I miss about it is being able to correct parking mistakes by picking the back of it up like a wheelbarrow and scooting it around (if I was low on gas). Good riddance!

        I still miss my Ranger, sometimes which was better in every way. And a dozen years newer. But the Ranger is obsolete, and my needs have also changed, so a minivan with a trailer hitch is the spiritual successor to the Ranger at my house.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Had a 1989 Mighty Max truck. Perfectly reliable. Silent shaft engine was smooth as silk. It was brown too.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    There are too many carmakers in Japan. I would expect no more than three will be left standing within the next 20 years.

  • avatar
    Stephen7

    Isuzu has only sold heavy commercial vehicles in Japan for more than a decade. The only manufacturers that might not be around in 20 years are Mitsubishi and possibly Mazda. Subaru isn’t going anywhere except maybe being completely swallowed by Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      So you think Suzuki is going to drag along for 20 years?

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        Suzuki has a very strong presence in India.

        Those smaller companies that will survive will do so by having a strong presence in developing markets. Daihatsu is already majority owned by Toyota, Subaru and Mazda have some interesting technologies that I can see being appealing to another carmaker, probably a Japanese one. I could also see Maruti Suzuki (Suzuki India) becoming the dog rather than the tail and the automaking part of Suzuki becoming an India based carmaker. Isuzu has all but abandoned light vehicle manufacturing,

        I don’t see what Mitsubishi Motors has to offer, and I don’t see their developing world prowess being that impressive.

        I have my doubts about Volvo as well.


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