‘PH ambition can be felt,’ says Mitsubishi COO


Tokyo, Japan—“The Philippines is a very exciting country. Manila’s got a good buzz. You can feel the energy, the ambition. And we want to be part of that ambition.” This came straight from Mitsubishi Motor Corp. COO Trevor Mann as he spoke to the Philippine motoring press on Oct. 24, a media night hosted by Mitsubishi a day before the opening of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.

A British-born engineer and businessman, Mann seemed to stress the word “ambition” when he described Manila. And, perhaps, not surreptitiously, he used it to tie things up with MMC’s first new tagline in a decade: “Drive your ambition,” which MMC explained as an attitude that has been true of Mitsubishi since its first vehicle rolled out of the assembly line a century ago.

“Mitsubishi has delivered ambitious cars to ambitious drivers for 100 years, pioneering vehicle genres with seminal products such as the Pajero, Lancer Evolution and i-MiEV, while creating cutting-edge technology to deliver breakthroughs all the way to the best-selling Outlander PHEV,” said MMC in a press statement.

Mitsuhiko Yamashita, MMC executive vice president and chief planning officer, added: “’Drive your ambition’ expresses the new direction of Mitsubishi Motors.”

The Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept, positioned as a technological prototype, could be one way of presenting the new tagline, he said.

Mann said he was impressed with Manila the first time he visited the city in 2017. And it wasn’t just because the nation’s capital rings familiar with his name.

“I was very pleasantly surprised. You can’t figure out the Philippine setting just by sitting in a desk in Tokyo. I got to see it by myself. We are doing quite well. The last few years we came down a bit, but we’re starting to grow again. I met four or five of the biggest dealers a few times, and I challenged them, and they also expressed their expectations of me. So, we both need to live up to our promises,” he revealed.

And what was the dealers’ biggest request? He replied with a smile: “Always, more cars!”

But what did he think of Metro Manila’s notorious traffic jams? “It’s crazy! I think this is quite unique to Southeast Asia. You go to the big cities like Manila or Jakarta, and you expect the traffic to be terrible.”

On the impending imposition of the excise tax on vehicles, Mann agreed that it would be a “big issue” among manufacturers.

Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance

On the fledgling alliance between Nissan and Mitsubishi, and if this would be felt in countries like the Philippines, Mann said: “Everyday, we’re working with Nissan to understand how we can improve our business collectively. We would only do anything if it’s a win for Nissan and a win for Mitsubishi. That has always been a policy of the alliance.”

Mann reiterated, though, that it would be of equal importance to “keep the brands separate.”

“We can’t confuse customers by mixing the two together. Nissan will always be Nissan, and Mitsubishi will always be Mitsubishi. Our cars, as far as the customer sees, touches, and feels, will have that Mitsubishi experience. What the customer doesn’t see, we can share. So we can share platforms (with Nissan). Within the country, we can share logistics, because we’re both going to the same cities with cars. We can share warehouses for parts. We are focused on the synergy for both brands, but we wouldn’t contaminate a brand experience for the alliance.”

He disclosed that the first truly shared alliance platforms could be the Outlander replacement and the X-Trail in 2020-2021.

Third wheel

Oh, and there’s the “third wheel” in the alliance, Renault.

Osamu Masuko, MMC CEO, said during the Oct. 25 public opening of the Tokyo Motor Show: “Since the last Tokyo Motor Show two years ago, a dramatic change happened at Mitsubishi Motors. Last year, we became a member of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

“This brought us economies of scale we never had before. We now can share advanced technologies for electric, autonomous, and connected vehicles. Against the backdrop of change, we put a V-shaped recovery on track—with firm determination.”

Masuko further told the Tokyo Big Sight audience, “A few days ago, we announced our mid-term business plan ‘Drive for growth’. The goal of this plan is to build a foundation for sustainable growth. To the world, we will show the power of monozukuri, and the strength of the gemba. We will make proactive and continuous investments into even more attractive vehicles.”

He then introduced what he called “the first global model” of a new Mitsubishi, the Eclipse Cross.

“The Eclipse Cross is a signature Mitsubishi SUV coupe, and it was first shown at the Geneva Motor Show to great acclaim. The Eclipse Cross will be launched in Japan before this year ends, and its success is the first step in our roadmap of growth.”

Masuko, who also said that Mitsubishi’s core strength has been its SUVs, declared that the carmaker would take advantage of the latest technologies.

“We introduced electric vehicles ahead of our rivals. We will continue to further refine our SUV and electrification technologies. We will fuse our vehicles with new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and car connectivity.”

Mann told the Philippine press about the success of the Xpander, and his excitement over the Eclipse Cross. The Eclipse Cross and the Xpander are about to start what he calls Mitsubishi’s “global journey, with a fresh new look of a dashing SUV coupe and a quality SUV/MPV crossover, which could refresh customers’ mindsets in mature and emerging markets.”

Mann said the recent Xpander launch in Indonesia set the tone he hopes the rest of the markets in the region would follow.

“The Indonesia launch seems to be one of the most impressive launches the country has seen in recent times. Now, there’s the challenge to deliver those vehicles which have been ordered by our customers.”

The Eclipse Cross, on the other hand, will be launched in over 80 countries.

A tour of MMC’s century

A day before the Tokyo Motor Show opened to the public, MMC toured the Philippine motoring media around the Mitsubishi Guest House, formerly an estate at the Yatsuyuma tableland owned by the Iwasaki family.

The sprawling estate housed cars highlighting the carmaker’s century-long heritage.

Mitsubishi’s history dates back to 1917, represented by all 22 units of the Mitsubishi Model-A, Japan’s first mass-produced vehicle. The Model A production started when the corporation was still known as the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Company.

The guest house also displayed the 2017 Outlander PHEV, the latest version of the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV, the 2013 Outlander PHEV.

The Outlander PHEV represents a fusion of EV technologies developed by MMC for models such as the i-MiEV, Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) technologies honed in the Lancer Evolution, and SUV know-how gained from the Pajero.

The Pajero (Montero/Shogun) was also on display. Pajero won the Unmodified 4WD Production Class of the Paris-Dakar Rally, renowned as the world’s toughest motorsport event in 1983 at its first attempt.

The Pajero won the first overall victory in 1985 and took the victory 12 times thereafter. Hiroshi Masuoka took overall victory on the 2002 Dakar Rally in this Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero.

The spotlight, however, was trained at the Lancer Evolution VI. MMC had been participating in the FIA World Rally Championship using the Lancer Evolution since 1993, winning the Manufacturers’ World Championship in 1998 and handing Tommi Makinen the Drivers’ World Championship trophy for four straight years (1996 to 1999).

If there was one thing the tour of the guest house showed members of the media, it was that MMC’s ambition has always led to achievements on a global scale.

A century of it only means the current acceleration to the future is not unintended.

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