All-new Strada: Mitsubishi’s design consistency to further boost sales

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Vehicle buyers are not just looking for a car that drives them from A to B.

These days, they also want to make a statement with their choice of automobile—who they are, or how they would like to be.

It was American automotive designer Harley Earl who first saw the tremendous potential of car design in terms of car sales, although he had to convince the engineering-dominated auto industry of the 1930s to recognize its importance.

Even with today’s generation of car buyers, it isn’t enough to have a reliable, efficient and powerful ride.

Car companies have realized the importance of having a striking car exterior, comfortable, supportive seats, spacious leg and head rooms, and smart technology interfaces that are so intuitive the driver will never need to open the owner’s manual.

Indeed, automotive manufacturing is today’s biggest, most complex, most demanding, and often, most fickle business.

An investment in one new model can run several hundreds of millions of dollars or more, and success or failure shifts on the whims of consumers and prevailing regulations that vary from one market to another.

A poor selling vehicle due to a flopped design and non-compliance can sink an entire company.

Consumer needs

According to Mitsubishi Motors global design chief Tsunehiro Kunimoto, a car designer’s job is not only to make the car beautiful but also to meet consumer needs and adhere to the regulations. “Designers remain stylists, but they are more than that today.”

Upon the arrival of Kunimoto in April 2014, he immediately started revitalizing Mitsubishi Motors through a styling overhaul, giving its vehicles a more consistent and rugged look.

(Nissan Motor Co. purchased a 34-percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors in 2016, bringing the Japanese brand into the massive Renault-Nissan Alliance.)

The former Nissan design boss, who counts the Nissan Z Concept, Nissan Skyline R32, Infiniti FX crossover, and Infiniti G sedan among his most notable accomplishments, outlined two priorities: one, develop a more consistent, recognizable look across the lineup; and two, create a style that taps Mitsubishi’s roots in rugged SUVs.

KUNIMOTO: Consistency of design is important to give the brand a recognizable identity.

KUNIMOTO: Consistency of design is important to give the brand a recognizable identity.

The so-called “Dynamic Shield” front fascia design language was soon born: a bold X-shaped motif that was an evolution of Mitsubishi’s XR-PHEV plug-in hybrid compact crossover, first shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

The look is supposed to also evoke the rugged protection that buyers liked in the old Mitsubishi Montero SUV, according to Kunimoto.

Global success

The new design language proved to be a global success, and in fact, played a significant role in helping win back customers in Japan after its admission in 2016 of overstated mileage readings on Japanese vehicle models shook consumer trust in the company.

This design consistency is also helping create a brand image for Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi Motors COO Trevor Mann reports that operating profit rose 36 percent in its first quarter, beating estimates, as strong sales in Asia helped drive the company’s recovery from a domestic mileage cheating scandal.

Sales in Southeast Asia rose 28 percent, and Mitsubishi Motors’ strength in the region has bolstered investors’ expectations on a strong recovery from the scandal, making Mitsubishi Motors the best-performing stock among major Japanese automakers in the early months of this year.

Indeed, Southeast Asia has become a key market for Mitsubishi Motors, accounting for nearly half of its global vehicle sales.

MANN: Mitsubishi Motors’ strength in the Southeast Asian region has bolstered investors’ expectations of a strong recovery.

MANN: Mitsubishi Motors’ strength in the Southeast Asian region has bolstered investors’ expectations of a strong recovery.

“For example, the strong Xpander (multipurpose vehicle) sales in Indonesia, where it is manufactured, have doubled its market share in the country to around 14 percent since January. Across member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation, Mitsubishi Motors boasts a market share of around 7 percent,” says Mann.

40th anniversary

The design language’s latest iteration can be recognized in the upcoming version of the Strada as the pickup truck celebrates its 40th birthday this year.

The front face incorporates the new-generation “Dynamic Shield” front design concept with a high engine hood line and beefier-looking lamps located higher up, giving the new model a more powerful and imposing front face.

The strength of a Mitsubishi truck is embodied in the new Strada’s sculpted body curves that feature contrasting sharp lines, extended wheel flares, and bright accents.

The lighting and bumper parts become part of the tough design, framing the front and rear designs, and adding visual width.

Kunimoto explains consistency of design is important to give the brand a recognizable identity.

At the same time, he stresses the importance of providing vehicles that fulfill the their customers’ desires through outstanding design, combined with the power, authenticity and carefully-considered functionality that Mitsubishi Motors is known for.

KUNIMOTO: Consistency of design is important to give the brand a recognizable identity.

MANN: Mitsubishi Motors’ strength in the Southeast Asian region has bolstered investors’ expectations on a strong recovery.

The strength of a Mitsubishi truck is embodied on the New Strada’s sculpted body curves that feature contrasting sharp lines, extended wheel flares and bright accents.



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