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Mitsubishi to target quality and branding

Branding exercise: Mitsubishi will focus on improving brand perception as a part of its ‘New Stage 2016’ plan.

Brand perception, quality issues to be addressed as Mitsubishi kicks off 2016 plan

26 Nov 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON in JAPAN

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation will concentrate on improving its overall brand perception and work to build confidence in the quality of its products as a part of its aggressive plan to build sales between now and 2016.

The Japanese car-maker does not enjoy the same brand awareness, quality or sales as some of its competitors, including Toyota and Nissan, but the company’ s ‘New Stage 2016’ business plan includes measures to address this.

Speaking to Australian media at the Tokyo motor show last week, MMC president Osamu Masuko acknowledged brand perception could be improved.

“We would like to realise a very reliable, reassuring, trustworthy, powerful brand,” he said. “Tanamoshii is the (Japanese) word.

“The image of Mitsubishi Motors, relatively speaking, is not refined. It is tough, safe and reassuring. Although it might not be perfect, that is the type of vehicle manufacturing we would like to do.” Mitsubishi will roll out electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids across its range in the coming years and Masuko-san believes brand-building could come off the back of this technology, suggesting that PHEV technology “is the exciting part”.

Keeping vehicles such as the high-performance Lancer Evolution in the company’s line-up is another way to maintain a bit of sizzle, and Masuko-san suggested the PHEV technology that is likely to end up in the next-generation model could enhance the Evo and in turn, the brand as a whole.

However, as GoAuto has reported, there is no confirmation that a new Lancer Evo will be built – in the short- to mid-term, at least – with Mitsubishi looking to share a Nissan-Renault model for its next C-segment contender.

MMC’s product and strategy chief Ryugo Nakao also said last week company “cannot do both environmental protection and sportscar ‘protection’ at the same time”.

Mr Masuko said the company was considering its options on Lancer Evo.

“For Evolution fans, it (the current model) is maybe a little bit too big. If you think about the original Evolution function, in order to continue on, the size of the vehicle should be reviewed I think,” he said.

“And the all-wheel drive and Super All-Wheel Control technology, we would like to combine with PHEV. So with a complete new technology in a real sense of evolution, we would like to challenge using this new type of technology.

“On the other hand, when we think about the environmental issues, for automotive manufacturers it is a very big mission and it is something that we feel pressure all the time.” Masuko-san said Mitsubishi has traditionally spread its resources across many different vehicle segments, from ‘kei’ cars through to heavy commercial vehicles, but the company would now concentrate on segments it is known for as well as development of EV technology.

“If you expend yourself too much, you are not able to make a good vehicle. That means timely model change and timely introduction of new technology on vehicles and installing technology on the vehicle,” he said.

“If you think about that then you have to have a certain focus and compete in a certain focused area. That would be better.” Consumer confidence in the brand took a beating last year in its home market when the company was forced to recall around 300,000 kei cars over an issue relating to oil leaks that could lead to engine failure.

Earlier this year, the company faced issues with the battery from the Outlander PHEV overheating and melting, causing it to temporarily suspend production and investigate the cause.

Masuko-san said that addressing the quality issues from a regulatory perspective was not enough and that the company needed to respond to its customers concerns more directly.

“Even though legally it is alright and meets the regulation, but the customer doesn’t feel comfortable or they have concern, we have to respond to these feelings,” he said.

“We have to go back to the basics. We have to think about quality and performance and we have to review this once again.

“We have to think more about customer, that’s why this feeling of Tanamoshii came up. We have to think from the customer’s perspective. So really in the future we have to further emphasise this and we will further focus on this.”

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