In addition to launching a preview of the next-generation Delica off-roading people mover, Mitsubishi Motors announced two other nuggets pointing to its future plans.
Firstly, the automaker will invest in Ampere, Renault’s electric vehicle (EV) and software division. Although the final amount has yet to be decided, Mitsubishi says it will plough in a “maximum” of €200 million ($335 million).
It’s unclear how much of Ampere Mitsubishi will own, but Mitsubishi says this investment will “further improve its EV development technology” and help it expand its range of EVs, which is currently limited to two kei cars sold primarily in Japan: the Minicab-MiEV van, and the eK X hatchback that’s also sold as the Nissan Sakura.
An upshot of Mitsubishi taking a stake in Ampere is that the Japanese brand will “receive OEM supply of EVs from Ampere in the European market”.
The automaker didn’t detail which EV models it would take from Renault, nor how much differentiation these cars will have from their Renault siblings.
Renault’s European EV range currently consists of the Twingo E-Tech, Zoe E-Tech, Megane E-Tech, Kangoo E-Tech, and Master E-Tech. It will soon be joined by the Scenic E-Tech, as well as production versions of the retro-styled Renault 5 hatch and 4 crossover.
Mitsubishi currently sells two very lightly reworked Renault models — the ASX based on the Renault Captur, and the Colt based on the Clio — across Europe with changes primarily limited to the grille design and badging.
The Japanese marque’s growing reliance on Renault in Europe stems from the ‘leader-follower’ model unveiled for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance in 2020, where the three automakers chose markets and fields of expertise that each one was meant to lead, and the others were to follow.
Under this plan, Mitsubishi was to concentrate on developing economies and markets in Southeast Asia, such as Australia and Indonesia, where it has a big market presence.
With its core technical expertise being plug-in hybrid vehicles, as opposed to pure EVs, Mitsubishi Motors announced it would withdraw from the UK and Europe.
The company quickly backtracked, stating it would stay in Europe – but not the UK – and would soon launch two new models built by Renault.
While Mitsubishi is forging on in Europe, it has decided to quit China, the world’s largest car market.
According to Mitsubishi the “Chinese automotive industry has faced rapid market changes” over past three years with the “shift to electric vehicles…accelerating faster than expected”.
Mitsubishi currently operates a joint venture factory with GAC, a local manufacturer based in Guangzhou. GAC will take full control of factory, which will now focus on producing EVs for GAC’s Aion brand.
Despite the addition of the GAC-based Airtrek EV to its range, Mitsubishi’s local sales continued to suffer and the company has paused production since March 2023 “in order to adjust our inventory”.
As part of its withdrawal from China, Mitsubishi Motors will book a ¥24.3 billion ($260 million) loss for the current financial year.
Mitsubishi is not the only foreign brand to end production in China recently, with Jeep closing its two factories — both of which it also operated with GAC — in mid-2022.
Jeep has since moved to an import-only model, which sees its vehicles hit with large tariffs. It’s unclear if Mitsubishi plans to export vehicles to China, or completely exit the country. It will continue to provide support and parts in China through GAC.