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Since the early 2000s, coinciding with Mitsubishi Motors North America’s decline in sales and market share, consumer awareness of the small Japanese brand has steadily diminished and has largely become forgotten among mainstream car buyers. Financial struggles and a limited product portfolio perennially has the automaker identified as a brand expected to disappear from the U.S. market, yet the company is refusing to give up with positive signs emerging that things are headed in the right direction. While value retention remains a weak spot, sales are trending upward and the dealer network is strengthening, however, the automaker’s turnaround plan will result in both a newfound business strategy and a completely different image. Thus, as a means to achieve financial stability, Mitsubishi will eschew its sporty, rally racing heritage and focus on utility vehicles, small cars and alternative powertrains.

To pay tribute to the brand’s outgoing iconic rally car, Mitsubishi will begin selling a final edition Lancer Evolution X this June as a GSR mated to a five-speed manual transmission, with changes including additional horsepower and an adjusted suspension. As plans for a next-generation Evo XI are currently nonexistent, the final edition model will be consumers’ last chance to purchase an Evo – at least in its current gasoline-powered form – in the foreseeable future. Only roughly 2,000 units will make it to market and once supply is exhausted, the brand long known for its racing and engineering process will carry on in name only as Mitsubishi continues to associate itself with its prowess in SUVs, which has become the company’s bread-and-butter.

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Since its arrival in 2011, the Outlander Sport has quickly become a pillar of the brand’s turnaround campaign in America, accounting for nearly 40% of the company’s 2014 sales. Outlander Sport deliveries have eclipsed 28,000 units through November and are up 25% year-over-year, making it understandable why Mitsubishi would be intent on  seizing this momentum and seeing where the company can go with it. Consequently, the Japanese automaker arrived at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, as well as the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, with a preview of its next-generation Outlander Sport model in the form of the XR PHEV Concept. Brand enthusiasts have long lamented Mitsubishi’s sluggishness in refreshing its lineup, but the brand was sure not to make that mistake with its most important model. Just like its larger Outlander sibling, the upcoming Outlander Sport is expected to be offered as both a gasoline-powered model and as a plug-in hybrid, but the most important takeaway from the automaker’s concept car is that the replacement model should be on its way within the next three years with a new sharp, edgy look to boot.

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Mitsubishi’s small Mirage hatchback came on sale in late 2013 with aspirations of becoming an attractive option for city dwellers and young car buyers looking for cheap, fuel-efficient transportation. Despite fairly critical reviews published by various automotive media sources, the Mitsubishi subcompact has sold 15,573 units 2014 with one month to go, easily surpassing the 7,000 units per year the company was expecting to sell. With a low starting MSRP of $12,995, excluding destination/handling, and a 37 city/44 highway EPA rating in CVT form (a 5-speed manual is also available), the merits of the Mirage have thus far outweighed its Spartan interior and less than stellar driving dynamics. Ultimately, the company’s new subcompact has been successful in its mission to boost sales, which bodes well for Mitsubishi as it has confirmed that a sedan variant is slated to be offered. How much the Mirage sedan differs from the hatchback aside is unknown, but it will surely increase deliveries and for a company in need of sales, it will take what it can get.

The Mitsubishi brand previously known for cool, dynamic sports cars as well as being the chief rival to Subaru will soon find itself in the rearview mirror as brand enthusiasts will be unable to recognize the company after the final edition Evo X makes its curtain call. However, for an automaker desperate to survive, a back to basics strategy is likely its only avenue on the road to prosperity. Once Mitsubishi has made its way through rough waters, the potential for the brand to return itself to its former glory is possible years down the line. Of course, the fear that it never rediscovers its former identity is very real, but for an automaker that was all but left for dead, it must keep it simple and take things one day at a time.