The origin of Mitsubishi dates back to 1870 when the name was used for the founder’s steam ship firm. Its automotive story began in 1917 when the same shipbuilding company introduced the Model-A, designed as a luxury vehicle for government officials and then becoming Japan’s first mass-produced car. Mitsubishi Motors started to gain global recognitions when it entered international motorsports in 1962. In 1970, Japan’s Galant GTO was modeled after the five-time Grand Prix-winning Colt F Series and eventually morphed into the iconic Lancer.
The brand gained traction for it automotive “firsts.” In 1976, Mitsubishi’s Silent Shift engine technology was licensed and patented to Porsche, Saab and Fiat. Next, its engineers rolled out the first energy-saving Turbo Diesel with Silent Shift Technology.
Mitsubishi began selling vehicles in the U.S. through a partnership with Chrysler Corporation. Early exports were sold with Dodge branding on them, starting with the 1971 Dodge Colt. 1981 was Mitsubishi Motors’ official launch date in America with the opening of Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) and the simultaneous rollout of the Tredia sedan, and the Cordia and Starion coupés.
More automotive firsts followed. Active Electronically Controlled Suspension (ESC) introduced in 1987 on its Galant VR-4 earned Motor Trend’s 1989 “Import Car of the Year” title. Next was the world’s first electronically-controlled Traction Control System in 1990, which later became a legally required safety feature in many countries, including the U.S. The 1990 3000GT (GTO) with high-performance full-time AWD suspension and aerodynamics and 1990 turbocharged 4G63 turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive technology were other award-winners. MIVEC engine technology that maintains engine performance while maximizing fuel efficiency and the world’s first Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) engine were other feats of the Mitsubishi engineering team.
The 1999 Alliance, a strategic partnership between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi was not a merger or an acquisition, but rather a cross-sharing agreement that was unique in the auto industry during the 1990s consolidation trend. Each company acts in the financial interest of the other while maintaining individual brand identities and independent corporate cultures. From the start, Mitsubishi has seemed to benefit from the arrangement.
Automobile magazine’s 2003 Automobile of the Year was All-Wheel-Control equipped Lancer Evolution, and a 4th generation Eclipse earned a 2005 Industry Design Excellence Award.
Mitsubishi’s 2005 launch of the Outlander marked the world’s first compact SUV to offer an environmentally friendly Partial Zero Emission (PZEV) V6 engine. The Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicle) made its debut in America in 2017.
Critics were skeptical when Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) ended production of its Outlander Sport model at its only plant in the US in 2016, meaning all Mitsubishi vehicles were made at its Japanese plant in Okazaki and exported to North America. Then in 2019, MMNA relocated to Franklin, TN, as part of a brand-wide reinvention. New styling and standard safety and connectivity features have been added across the lineup, which includes Outlander, Outlander Sport, Eclipse Cross, and Mirage.
The 2022 Outlander benefits from its partnership with Nissan and Renault, namely its shared underpinnings with the Nissan Rogue which include the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (181 horsepower, 181 lb-ft of torque) and its continuously variable automatic transmission; a PHEV version will arrive soon. The gearless transmission, popular for the compact SUV segment, does not make it a favorite among gearheads, but the 2022 is praised for upgrades throughout, better styling and improvements in agility and composure over previous models. Standout features of the three-row Outlander included reclining second row seats, 20-inch wheels, generous cargo room and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty. Our tester had top-level SEL trim with the all-wheel drive option, which Mitsubishi calls Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) with MSRP of $37,995. A Tour Package added a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, rear sunshade, 10-speaker Bose audio and a head-up display for a total price tag of $37,995 with destination and handling.
READ OTHER AUTOMOTIVE BRAND STORIES: