On the road to re­cov­ery

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Showroom - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

NOT a sin­gle Mit­subishi i-MiEV was sold in Aus­tralia in 2013.

That’s not a bad thing, be­cause the tiny elec­tric car is not a good thing, as well as cost­ing too much.

It also shows what hap­pens, even to a group as good as Mit­subishi, when their show­room cars aren’t good or are not a match for their op­po­si­tion.

Yet, for the first time the Ja­panese maker man­aged a show­room to­tal last year that was bet­ter than the years when it was a lo­cal maker and the proud par­ent of cars as good as the orig­i­nal wide-body Magna and the 380 that put the sad full stop on its man­u­fac­tur­ing in Ade­laide.

As Ford and Holden face up to a sim­i­lar im­port-only fu­ture, and for­mer lo­cal Nis­san stum­bles again with too many cars and not enough cus­tomers, Mit­subishi is bank­ing the suc­cess of a value-driven strat­egy that’s putting smiles on lots of faces in Aus­tralia. Most of those faces be­long to own­ers, but some are at Mit­subishi’s Ade­laide head­quar­ters.

“We are get­ting back on track,” says Mit­subishi mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tony Principe.

“The re­al­ity is we sold over 20,000 pas­sen­ger cars last year, com­pared with 15,800 the year be­fore. So we are up 32 per cent and the pas­sen­ger mar­ket is down 2 per cent.”

Mit­subishi’s big win­ner is the Tri­ton, now the best-value con­tender in the pick-up busi­ness and re­spon­si­ble for more than 25,000 de­liv­er­ies in 2013, and there will be a re­place­ment be­fore the end of 2014.

It’s also done well with the tid­dler Mi­rage, which was brought here to ce­ment the bot­tom end for buy­ers.

Mit­subishi in­sid­ers ad­mit they are draw­ing cus­tomers with a price line that means Rec­om­mended Re­tail Price is just a start­ing spot for show­room ne­go­ti­a­tions, but it’s about achiev­ing crit­i­cal mass and top-of-mind im­pact with shop­pers.

“We’re on the up. You can never say you’re com­pletely happy, but . . . we’re im­prov­ing in all the key ar­eas,” Principe says.

“We’ve been lis­ten­ing and we’re try­ing to im­prove all ar­eas of our busi­ness. It’s taken a lit­tle while but we’re def­i­nitely on track.”

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