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Mitsubishi Motors’s new US CEO wants to return it to its former glory



Mitsubishi motors US CEO Fred Diaz
Mitsubishi Motors North
America CEO Fred Diaz with a new Mitsubishi Eclipse


  • Fred Diaz took over as president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor North America in
  • Diaz, a former executive with Nissan and RAM Trucks, will be tasked with returning
    Mitsubishi to prominence in the US.
  • Mitsubishi has experienced sales growth over the past
    five years but is still trying to recover a disastrous period
    at the end of the last decade.
  • Diaz believes the Mitsubishi’s membership in the
    will do wonders for the brand.

On his first day as Mitsubishi Motors North America’s CEO
in April, Fred Diaz held a town hall with is employees. The
message was simple. 

“I needed them to know that I’m not a Nissan employee who
is on loan,” Diaz told us in an interview. “I’m 100%

“We’re family now,” he added.

In October of 2016, Nissan acquired 34% controlling
interest in MMNA’s parent company, Mitsubishi Motors, valued at
$2.3 billion. This move created the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi

As part of the Nissan’s takeover, opportunities were
created that allowed executives to crossover to

One of the people to make the shift over was Fred Diaz, who
is now tasked with leading Mitsubishi back to prominence in the

Diaz has a long track record of success in his 30-year career in
the car business. Prior to becoming the president and CEO of
Mitsubishi Motors North America, the straight-talking executive
helped Fiat Chrysler launch its massively profitable RAM truck
division and more recently as the head of Nissan’s revamped truck

Even though his background is in the sales and marketing of all
facets of the auto industry, “people still know me as the
truck guy,” Diaz said.

How the once great Mitsubishi fell from grace

Mitsubishi is a car company with a storied past. The Japanese
automaker has famously given the world such iconic vehicles as
the rugged Pajero/Montero/Shogun SUV, the high-tech 3000GT sports
car, and the all-conquering Lancer Evolution rally car. 

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

During the late 1990s, the company turned out a series of
vehicles including the Eclipse sports car, the Montero
Sport/Challenger SUV, and the Galant Sedan. 

In 2002, the company offered eight different models to US
consumers with annual sales peaking at more than 345,000 cars
that year.

But by 2009, Mitsubishi’s lineup had contracted to just five
models with sales dwindling down to less than 54,000 cars. 

The financial crisis pushed the brand to the brink of exiting the
US market like Suzuki and Isuzu a decade earlier. 

Globally, the company stagnated, stopped growing, and ran short
on resources to develop new products, Nissan, Renault, and
Mitsubishi Motors chairman Carlos Ghosn told us in a 2017

The company was forced to hit the reset button and decided to
hitch its future fortunes to crossover SUVs — more specifically,
the Outlander and its many derivatives. It’s a decision that has
proven to be absolutely brilliant. 

Since 2009, the company’s sales have nearly doubled. 

Mitsubishi Outlander
The current Mitsubishi

Andrew Burton/Getty

In 2016, Mitsubishi Motors reported a $1.4 billion loss across
all of its international markets in spite of growing sales in the
US. Nissan saw this as the perfect opportunity for a takeover.

“When the opportunity came, due to some unfortunate
circumstances concerning Mitsubishi Motors, to have them inside
the alliance, we were convinced it could be a good fit. This was
not something that came out of the blue.” Ghosn said.

But even after half a decade of consistent sales growth, the
103,686 cars Mitsubishi sold in 2017 is but a mere fraction of
its peak in 2002 and represents a minuscule 0.6% share of total
US auto sales. 

“We’re still a tiny, tiny brand compared to the gorillas in the
automotive industry, but we have to start somewhere and we have
to grow to return to our heyday,” Diaz said. 

Which means, in spite of healthy sales growth, Mitsubishi in
the US remains a major reclamation project. 

‘We’re just an unaware brand’

Externally, the biggest challenge for Diaz will be brand

“We have a huge awareness problem in the United States,” he said.
“Some people didn’t even realize Mitsubishi still sold cars

Fortunately, this is a fixable problem.

“We’re not a damaged brand. We haven’t done anything that caused
us a black eye or do something that made everyone in America want
to hate us,” Diaz explained. “We’re just an unaware brand.”

Mitsubishi Commercial

Motors North America

So Mitsubishi, with financial backing from The Alliance, is once
again investing in branding. 

Afterall, The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is
currently the largest car company in the world with 10.61 million
cars sold worldwide in 2017. 

For the first time in 11 years, there are Mitsubishi car
commercials running on US network TV. The company is also making
huge investments in social media, regional advertising, and the
generation of electronic sales leads. 

Diaz is making big changes internally

Mitsubishi had an unfortunate history of “saving their way into a
profit,” Diaz told us. As a result, necessary investments in
planning and operations weren’t made. There were holes on the
management team that had to be filled. 

The new CEO traveled across the country to all of
the company’s offices and met individually with employees
not only to introduce himself but also to assess the talent on
his bench. And when he could, he promoted from within. 

There were also issues with the brand’s dealership network. There
weren’t enough of them and the ones they did have, have not
received sufficient support from Mitsubishi to truly

According to Diaz, Mitsubishi had only two regional offices to
support its entire network. In fact, one of the regions was
tasked with assisting dealers in a whopping 38 states. To improve
the situation, Diaz has expanded the number of regions to four
with a possible further expansion to five. 

Mitsubishi dealerMitsubishi

And there’s the reality that Mitsubishi didn’t have enough

“We have 360 dealers across the nation and we have open points
across the country that we need to fill,” he said. “We just need
to put dealers in places where consumers can feel confident that
they won’t have to drive 100 miles to get their vehicles

Unfortunately, adding new dealerships was much easier said than

“Two years ago, trying to get a dealer to invest in a Mitsubishi
franchise was really difficult,” Diaz added. “The pickings were

Fast forwards 18 months and things have greatly improved with the
backing of The Alliance. 

“We’re now turning people away,” he added. 

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