2015 Mitsubishi MirageEnlarge Photo
Mitsubishi has been widely viewed as struggling in the U.S., but recently an unexpected vehicle has provided some good news for the Japanese carmaker.
A tiny, cheap hatchback, the Mitsubishi Mirage occupies a market segment that isn't exactly energetic.
In fact, Mitsubishi originally expected to sell just 7,000 Mirage hatchbacks per year--but ended up selling just over 20,000 last year.
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Mirage sales for 2015 increased 28.8 percent from 2014 to 21,515 units. That made it the company's second best-selling model, behind the Outlander Sport compact crossover.
The uptick in Mirage sales came during a year when Mitsubishi increased its overall sales by 22.8 percent from 2014, to 95,342 units, according to WardsAuto.
That's far off the record 345,111 U.S. sales Mitsubishi recorded in 2002, but at least shows the carmaker has arrested the sales decline it experienced over the last decade.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GTEnlarge Photo
The company expects to break the 100,000-unit barrier this year, U.S. sales boss Ken Konieczka told Wards during an interview in Detroit last week.
Mitsubishi did not attend last week's auto show there, but it has some new and updated products planned for the coming year--including a refreshed Mirage.
Unveiled back in November at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2017 Mirage arrives with a handful of updates after the car skipped the 2016 model year.
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Notable changes include revised styling, suspension tuned specifically for the North American market, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The existing five-door hatchback model--which currently has the highest mpg of any non-hybrid car sold in the U.S.--will be joined by a Mirage G4 four-door sedan later this year.
Mitsubishi will likely have to rely on continued strong Mirage sales to bolster its shrunken lineup.
Mitsubishi Mirage G4Enlarge Photo
The only other cars the company currently sells in the U.S. are the aging Lancer compact, and the extremely low-volume i-MiEV electric car.
It also sells the Outlander Sport and larger Outlander crossovers.
Officials have said many times over the past few years that Mitsubishi plans to focus more on crossovers than conventional sedans or hatchbacks--and now the company seems to be following through with those plans.
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Later this year, Mitsubishi will finally launch the Outlander Plug-In Hybrid in the U.S., based on the updated Outlander unveiled at the 2015 New York Auto Show.
A refreshed Outlander Sport was also shown at the 2015 L.A. Auto Show. Full redesigns of both models are expected by the end of the decade.
Mitsubishi will also reportedly launch a third crossover, based on the electric eX concept from the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.