Mitsubishi is a Japanese brand of vehicles that built their reputation on style, a dynamic driving experience and success in rally racing. While lacking a diverse product portfolio in North America, they do offer interesting vehicles backed by one of the best warranty coverages of the industry.
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The Mitsubishi company was founded in 1873, while their three-diamond logo was registered in 1914. They were involved in a vast array of business and industrial activities, and development of their first car, the Model-A, started in 1917.
In 1921, the company established their engine manufacturing division, while in 1932, the Fuso bus was developed. Just before WWII, Mitsubishi produced a prototype of the PX33, a military-grade, 4-wheel drive passenger car.
After a long post-war hiatus, the company got busy re-establishing their own automotive activities. The Mitsubishi 500, their first compact four-wheel passenger car, is launched in 1960, followed by a bunch of new models throughout the decade, including the Colt series. The name Mitsubishi Motor Sales Corporation is officially established in 1964, and at the same time, the Colt started to compete in international rallies.
In 1969, the sporty Colt Galant was launched, and after a 15-percent purchase in shares by Chrysler, the car was sold in North America as the Dodge Colt, the Dodge Challenger and the Plymouth Sapporo. Meanwhile, the Lancer was introduced in 1973 and quickly racked up rally victories in Australia, while the Mirage arrived in 1978. Before the turn of the decade, Mitsubishi’s annual vehicle production exceeded one million for the first time.
The first Mitsubishi-badged vehicles arrived in the United States in 1982 through a newly-established dealer network. The first models to arrive are the Tredia sedan, the Cordia hatchback and the Starion sports coupe. At the same time, the Japanese manufacturer acquires a 10% stake in Hyundai. The Pajero SUV was also launched and quickly claimed victories in the Paris-Dakar Rally.
In the U.S., the Mirage, the Galant, the Sigma, the Mighty Max pickup, the Mitsubishi Van and the Montero SUV were added to the line-up in the ‘80s. In addition, a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler resulted in Diamond-Star Motors, producing and assembling the Eclipse sports coupe in Illinois, USA.
The 3000GT coupe with available twin-turbo engine and all-wheel drive arrived in 1990. The first edition of the now-famous Lancer Evolution series in launched in 1992, as did the compact Expo and Expo LRV tall wagons and full-size Diamante sedan.
The compact Outlander SUV was added to the line-up in 2001, and in 2003, a dealer network was established in Canada for the first time. The mid-size Endeavor replaced the Montero Sport in 2004, and the Diamante was also offered for a couple of years. The Raider pickup, a rebadged Dodge Dakota, was offered in the U.S. from 2005 to 2009. The i minicar, launched overseas in 2006, was further developed as a 100% electric vehicle and offered in North America in 2011.
Mitsubishi’s current line-up of products includes the compact Lancer sedan, the Lancer Sportback 5-door, the Lancer Ralliart, the Lancer Evolution, the Eclipse coupe and Eclipse Spyder convertible, the RVR crossover, the Outlander and Endeavor SUVs as well as the i-MiEV electric minicar.
The Mitsubishi Outlander has sold more than 50,000 vehicles since its 2002 launch. However, it was being left behind in a forward-moving segment continually establishing new levels of sophistication.
The compact crossover market is growing at an almost alarming rate. What was once a niche product is now a must-have model in every lineup. Trendy isn't even the right word here because we feel like it's going to be more than just a passing fad, these functional well-proportioned vehicles are here to stay.
Straight up: I had more or less written Mitsubishi off as a viable and competitive player in the North American car business. That was before I got to spend a week with two 2013 RVRs.
The world-famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (June 25-30, 2013) will once again feature electric cars.
Mitsubishi is apparently looking to bolster its model lineup with a brand new compact sedan for 2015.
The 2013 Mitsubishi RVR is nicely equipped (even in base trim) and backed by one of the industry's best warranties. It also offers good visibility and pleasant handling.