Mitsubishi hopeful that Thailand-built Mirage will do well in US

Article by Anita Panait, on October 15, 2013

Mitsubishi executives are confident that customers in the United States won’t care that the Mirage subcompact hatchback is built in Thailand, as they will care more about its features -- 40 mpg, easy handling and efficient use of interior space as well as its sub-$14,000 sticker price. The Mirage also allows Mitsubishi to plug a hole in its US lineup and provide dealers a new vehicle to sell to consumers.

However, it is still an issue whether the Mirage’s three-cylinder, 1.2-liter engine would be good enough for U.S. highways. Likewise, US consumers may prefer a sedan version of the Mirage. Mitsunori Kitao, COO of Mitsubishi Motors Thailand Co., remarked that they first have to know how well US consumers would receive the Mirage and how well the subcompact hatchback would sell.

After all, Mitsubishi has already started production of a sedan variant, called the Attrage in Thailand and the Mirage G4 in the Philippines this summer. While Mitsubishi is studying the launch of the sedan version in the US, this version is much heavier than the hatchback, which means more strain on the Mirage’s small engine.

Likewise, Mitsubishi cannot just use larger engines due to layout restrictions, which means the Mirage may not be able to outperform rivals powered by the 1.4- to 1.6-liter engines. Ryujiro Kobashi, corporate general manager in charge of North America marketing and global small-car projects, remarked that US consumers may look for more acceleration, so they are not sure of the marketability of the Mirage in the country.

He added that "perception is very important,” despite the market making the move towards downsizing. Mitsubishi could opt to turbocharge its engine offering to draw more power. The Mirage will be competing against the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Spark. Mitsubishi, however, says that its products offer better fuel economy and acceleration than rivals with bigger engines due to their lesser weight.

Mitsubishi expects to sell 600 Mirages monthly in the US. Since the Mirage will be Mitsubishi's first new offering since 2011, US dealers have already placed 6,600 orders for the subcompact hatchback.

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