By Richard Russell
Photo: Mitsubishi. Click image to enlarge
See also: Mitsubishi’s corporate woes tarnish image, by Richard Russell
Although Mitsubishi has been selling vehicles in Canada directly for only a few years, its products have been on our roads for decades beneath various Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth badges. Mitsubishi’s American factory builds not only its products but also the Chrysler Sebring, and Mitsubishi engines have been used in many Chrysler products over the years.
The current Mitsubishi products rolling off that Illinois line are the Galant sedan, Endeavor SUV and Eclipse sports coupe, which all share the same basic platform.
I recently spent a week with a 2005 Galant GTS, and after racking up hundreds of kilometres in both city and highway driving situations, came to appreciate this family sedan for what it is – a stylish alternative to hugely popular cars from Toyota, Honda, Mazda and others.
Like the Camry and Accord, the Galant offers exceptional quality – in both materials used and assembly. It stands apart from the others in terms of design and offer a larger interior. Mitsubishi has traditionally taken a different design road than the mainstream Japanese competition, deliberately standing out with bold and sometimes controversial looks. The Galant was redesigned for 2004 and the design is fresh and distinctive, not your typical boring box. From the four-bulb ellipsoid projector-style headlights covered in smoked lenses to the dark-chromed rear lights, the Galant stands apart.
Click image to enlarge
On the inside the ninth-generation Galant (the fifth sold in North America) is a visual treat. Top quality materials are evident throughout and assembled with a precision that would do justice to a car costing much more. Wide, supportive buckets up front and more shoulder room in the rear than the competition, augmented by a massive trunk make this a bigger car than expected. Unfortunately, the engineers decided to sacrifice folding rear seats in favour of extra structural rigidity. While you can’t expand trunk space, you can certainly appreciate the rock-solid platform every time you hit a bump or tackle a turn with vengeance.
Click image to enlarge
The instrument panel is a stylish piece with ice-blue lighting used to create a sophisticated ambiance. Unlike many vehicles, all of the instruments and controls share the same lighting. The 2005 model has side air bags as standard equipment – an upgrade for this year. There are numerous storage bins, cubbyholes and pockets throughout.
One knock against many Asian vehicles, particularly those in the lower price categories, is that the audio system is merely adequate. Mitsubishi, however, has a background in audio: its sibling company makes serious gear for audiophiles. So it came as no surprise the Galant was equipped with a 270-watt system complete with six-disc in-dash CD-changer and great sound through eight speakers. The centre stack has even been designed to look like a home entertainment system – a modern high-tech one.
Click image to enlarge
Mitsubishi builds wonderful engines for a lot of customers around the world – in fact some current South Korean units are derivatives of a Mitsubishi design. The Galant can be had with either four or six cylinder motivation – 160 horsepower from a 2.4 litre four or 230-horses from a 3.8 litre V6 as in my test car. Smooth, quiet and yet more than happy to get up and dance when prodded, this latest Mitsu engine is a jewel. It powers the front wheels through a four-speed automatic. While short one gear when compared to much of the competition, you don’t miss the extra cog because the 3.8 is not only the largest engine in the class, it produces the most torque, much of it available very low on the rev band.
Click image to enlarge
The all-independent suspension with struts up front and multiple links at the rear provides a firm yet pleasant ride and sharper handling than the norm. This is not a sports sedan but feels much more like one than the competition. Perched atop big 17-inch alloy wheels and equipped with ABS, the Galant stops as well as it goes.
The Galant is available in four trim levels – DE, $24,943; ES 26,063; LS V6 $29,203 and GTS $34,343. At these levels, the Galant enjoys a price advantage compared over many of its competitors. To take the worry out of purchasing amidst all the boardroom turmoil and bad ink, Mitsubishi offers a 10-year, 160,000 kilometre powertrain warranty as well as five-year bumper-to-bumper coverage and roadside assistance.
While comforting, history indicates none of this will be needed.
If you’re looking for something less utilitarian and pragmatic – a little pizzazz in your family car, check out the Galant. You get all the same size, features, practicality, quality and durability with a little bit of spice thrown in.
Technical Data: 2005 Mitsubishi Galant GTS
|Price as tested||$35,368|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.8 litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||230 @ 5250 rpm|
|Torque||250 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission||4-speed automatic/manual mode|
|Curb weight||1655 kg (3649 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2750 mm (108.3 in.)|
|Length||4835 mm (190.4 in.)|
|Width||1840 mm (72.4 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||377 litres (13.3 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.6 L/100 km (22 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.0 L/100 km (35 mpg)|
|Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||10 yrs/160,000 km|
Mitsubishi’s corporate woes tarnish image
By Richard Russell
Mitsubishi Motors is the fourth car company in Japan. Part of a diversified conglomerate involved in everything from chemicals to telecommunications, it produces some of the country’s highest quality and more stylish vehicles. That is the good news.
The bad news is that it has had some pretty serious problems at the executive level over the past few years. While it continued to develop and offer some great cars and SUVs, a few folks in the head office were involved in one of the largest corporate scandals in Japanese history – a decade-long cover-up of defects in some commercial products sold locally. The executives involved have been summarily dismissed and many face criminal and other charges.
As if that wasn’t enough, the folks in charge on this side of the pond – head-quartered in California – had embarked on a variety of low-cost, high-risk marketing schemes in order to attract buyers, especially young buyers, and compete with established players like Toyota, Honda and Mazda. Late to the party, Mitsubishi execs attempted to buy market share. It worked for a short while. Sales were strong, and the demographic of Mitsubishi owners among the youngest in the industry. But, the company was losing money on every vehicle sold. The relentless pursuit of the youth market with zero down, zero interest financing and no payments for up to 12 months didn’t contribute much to the bottom line. Adding insult to injury, when it came time to actually make a payment, many folks lured into signing a finance or lease agreement, simply walked away.
In Canada, where Mitsubishi was even later coming to the market, the situation was even worse. The company attempted to marry American practices to Canadian consumers in the belief the same deals would work here to attract young buyers and “move some metal.” What it learned is that young Canadians have less disposable income than their American counterparts and are highly unlikely to buy new cars while still in university or when first entering the job market.
Guess what? Canadian sales predictions were never met, let alone approached, thanks to the almost daily bad news out of Tokyo and America. Many dealers, forced to fund and build elaborate new facilities under their franchise agreements, found little support from the floundering head office and a wary public stayed away in droves.
In the meantime, with losses mounting and heads falling in Tokyo and Los Angeles, DaimlerChrysler announced it would not supply any more funding and the long-time relationship between Mitsubishi and the two world players weakened.
That’s the stuff of a book at least or even a TV series. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The boardroom in Japan has been cleaned out. Most of the top Mitsubishi brass in North America are gone. Various lending institutions have supplied fresh working capital. There is new product in the pipeline, including a new pickup based on the Dodge Dakota, and sales for the first quarter of 2005 actually increased for the first time in recent memory.