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Mitsubishi Mirage sales were 11832 through May
<p><strong>Mitsubishi Mirage sales were 11,832 through May.</strong></p>

Mirage Success Surprising Even to Mitsubishi

The Japanese automaker delivered roughly 12,000 Mirages through May, higher than the year-to-date volume of the Tesla Model S, BMW i3 and all Land Rovers.

SAN FRANCISCO – It has been the recipient of some scathing reviews, but the Mirage subcompact has become Mitsubishi’s No.2-selling vehicle in the U.S. this year.

The bare-bones B-car’s success has been a surprise, even for some of the brand’s executives.

“It’s selling really, really well, beyond expectations,” Bryan Arnett, senior manager-product strategy for Mitsubishi Motors North America tells WardAuto in an interview here.

“Bryan never thought we’d sell in these numbers,” says Don Swearingen, MMNA’s executive vice president, noting there were two camps within Mitsubishi before the car launched: one that thought the imported subcompact would work in the U.S. and the other that didn’t.

But even the pro group recognized the car, sold in the developing markets of Southeast Asia, needed some tweaks to make it palatable to U.S. consumers.

“We went to our parent company and said, ‘Look, for it to sell in America we’ve got to make these changes,’” Swearingen recounts. “And Japan and Thailand, where it’s built, stepped up to the plate and made a lot of the changes we had asked for.”

U.S. deliveries of the Mirage tallied 11,832 units through May vs. 6,816 in the same period year-ago, a 73.6% increase, Mitsubishi’s sharpest-rising model this year, WardsAuto data shows.

The subcompact’s volume is second only to Mitsubishi’s best-seller in 2015, the Outlander Sport compact CUV, which recorded 13,945 sales in the year’s first five months.

Besides outpacing most of Mitsubishi’s own lineup, the Mirage also has outsold some more-lauded models in the U.S., including the Tesla Model S, Volkswagen GTI and BMW i3, as well as every Land Rover.

It also has outsold competing B-cars the Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris.

Even after the 5-door went on sale, Mitsubishi engineers were concerned the car’s 74-hp 1.2L 3-cyl. wasn’t powerful enough.

But Swearingen says owners haven’t had any complaints.

“We brought in 10 consumers who bought (the) Mirage, and we talked to them with our Japanese engineers in Dallas a few months back…(but) not one of the 10 brought up power as an issue,” he says.

With a base price just below $13,000, Mitsubishi’s dealers have made more than a few sales by luring folks out of an intended purchase of a used car.

“(Customers tell dealers), ‘Well, wait a minute, I didn’t think I could afford a new car,” Swearingen says. But after seeing the Mirage’s $12,995 entry price, its 44-mpg (5.3-L/100 km) highway fuel-economy rating and learning about the brand’s 100,000-mile (161,000-km), 10-year powertrain warranty, “it’s very easy to sell them on a new car,” he says.

Arnett and Swearingen find the criticism the Mirage is cheaply done puzzling, noting Mitsubishi has never positioned the B-car as anything near premium.

“As long as we properly communicate what the car can deliver and who is the niche we are trying (to reach) and don’t oversell what it is, (we’re doing a good job),” Swearingen says.

MMC Bucking Trend

The brand later this year will add a sedan to the Mirage’s hatchback-only lineup. Swearingen finds the 4-door sportier-looking and says it may appeal to those who see the 5-door as nondescript.

The MMNA executive foresees the sedan eating into 5-door demand, but predicts most sales will be additional, noting other manufacturers offering both sedan and hatchback body styles of their subcompacts sell a higher level of the 4-door configuration.

 “Are we going to double our sales? No. But I think we’re going to have some incremental sales that can help us grow in this segment.”

Mitsubishi is bucking the trend in WardsAuto’s Lower Small segment, down 3.6% through May to 279,892 units. Not only was the Mirage up 73.6% through May, it was one of only a few models in the group gaining sales vs. year-ago.

Lower gasoline prices have hurt many small cars, including the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Kia Rio, down 3.9%, 28.5% and 25.7%, respectively.

Even the segment’s No.1 and No.2 sellers, the Nissan Versa and Kia Soul, are listless.

Versa sales were flat vs. year-ago, up just 0.8% to 56,765, while the Soul was down 10.4% to 56,142.

However, Honda was right behind Mitsubishi in May with a 71% gain in Fit sales. The third-generation Fit went on sale roughly a year-ago in the U.S.

The low-volume Yaris was up 37.0% through May to 9,878.

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