Kurt Verlin
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Want to Save Mitsubishi, Nissan? Bring Back the EVO

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2015 Lancer Evolution Final Edition

The 2015 Lancer Evolution Final Edition.

In 2014, Mitsubishi announced that the beloved Lancer Evolution would be discontinued. While most fans were distraught, some were unsurprised: the EVO had remained largely unchanged for several model years in the United States and Mitsubishi was struggling to stay afloat.

So Mitsubishi decided to ditch the low-volume performance car and raise revenue by focusing on crossovers and budget EVs. To be fair to them, it was probably the right decision: crossovers have been in vogue for a few years as the economy has recovered and models like the Outlander and Outlander Sport have helped Mitsubishi stabilize its balance sheet.

Nonetheless, as a result of the fuel economy scandal, Mitsubishi still needed help. Fortunately, now that Nissan has purchased 34% of Mitsubishi shares and that the latter is in the process of joining the Renault-Nissan Alliance, things are actually looking up. Carlos Ghosn has major plans for the automotive group, which is now among the top three in the world based on sales, and is looking to turn Mitsubishi around in quick fashion.

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Carlos Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan CEO and soon-to-be Mitsubishi Chairman.

The best way to do this, it seems to me, would be to bring back the EVO as soon as possible. The alliance will help Mitsubishi save big on development and operating costs and we already know that Mitsubishi will work on a new Lancer and Triton pickup truck based on a shared platform with Renault-Nissan. Building the next-generation EVO would no longer be the risky, money-sink that it would have been in 2014.

More than that, Mitsubishi needs the EVO to revitalize its brand image. Crossovers and EVs are all well and good, but they’re increasingly common across the industry and don’t really help Mitsubishi stand out. One could even argue that the EVO was always the main and perhaps only reason anyone was interested in the Japanese automaker in the United States; even after its discontinuation, it still has a strong following of performance enthusiasts who would be more than happy to see Mitsubishi produce a renewed competitor to the Subaru WRX STI.

Furthermore, having even just one performance car in a lineup is a proven way of getting people interested in an automotive brand. While they may not always be affordable or even convenient, they are the cars that people who care about cars want to drive; they generate enthusiasm and excitement and more importantly, get people talking about the brand.

Bring back the EVO, Mitsubishi, and soon. If only because my lease is up in a year and a half and I’d really like to buy one.

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