Could Nissan Help Mitsubishi Sell Trucks in the U.S. Again?
Mitsubishi might be interested in selling a truck in the U.S. —and why wouldn’t it? The truck market is hot, especially the midsize pickup market. Even a small slice of the truck pie would be appealing—and given Mitsubishi’s microscopic share of the overall vehicle market here, anything might help. According to a report from The Drive, the Japanese brand is mulling over some creative ideas about how to bring a truck to market here.
The Drive spoke with Carson Grover, Director for Product Planning in North America, and he revealed his strong interest in a pickup for the U.S. And he also noted the headwinds that would face such a move. The infamous so-called Chicken Tax foists a heavy import duty burden on any foreign-constructed trucks, which has led to some creative end-runs (remember the bed-mounted seats in the Subaru BRAT?) but, mostly, to manufacturing of trucks coming to North America. Toyota, for example, builds the Tundra and Tacoma in plants in Texas and in Mexico. And it pretty much precludes the Mitsubishi Triton (currently built in Thailand, seen below) from coming to these shores without a massive investment (and some serious federalization).
Grover noted to The Drive that there’s not capacity in any U.S. Mitsubishi plant to add a truck line. Where things get juicy is that Grover revealed a solution—albeit a hypothetical one—to the problem. Remember that Mitsubishi is a junior partner in the Nissan-Renault alliance, right? With the recent reshuffle, it also gained a little leverage as the European component of the partnership’s power was reduced. That could open the door between some sort of platform-sharing agreement with Nissan about, say, the Frontier. Again, a hypothetical prospect—and one we imagined, above, with some help from Midjourney AI and Photoshop. Grover didn’t name names to The Drive, but he all but connected the dots.
The Frontier is a pretty good midsize truck, but it’s way behind the Toyota Tacoma in sales. Even a badge engineered Mitsubishi would help Nissan achieve greater economy of scale, and could improve the bottom line for both companies.
Grover even noted that there might be a market for a Mitsubishi-branded Ford Maverick competitor. There’s more white space in the compact, unibody truck segment than the midsize truck segment that’s dominated by Toyota. Maybe Mitsubishi (and Nissan) might be able to produce something in that vein using an existing crossover platform. The Maverick is, after all, related to the Bronco Sport and Ford Escape, and the Hyundai Santa Cruz is likewise related to the Tucson.
Mitsubishi is no stranger to the U.S. truck market, selling its own pickup as the Mighty Max and also the Ram 50 captive import, and eventually selling a badge-engineered Dodge Dakota variant called the Raider. We’re not sure that any of these historic names might make sense for the U.S. market. Indeed, the Triton name—which is what the truck was sold as in most other countries up into the present day—was until most recently associated with Ford’s Modular truck V-8 engines.
It’s nothing new for automakers to float the idea of moving into a new segment even if plans for such a move are in a very preliminary (or exploratory) stage, so don’t take Grover’s comments as a coy hint that such a move is definitely in the works. But it does get the juices flowing. A compact, unibody pickup co-produced with Nissan could make a real splash and put Mitsubishi back on the radar for a whole new segment of American buyers. We’ll see if any plans come to fruition, though.
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