Sometimes you just gotta close your eyes, take a deep breath, and turn the key.
Which is to say I’m getting out of my element with this one.
Can’t we all just get along?
No. I’m not talking about absolving stance hacks’ crimes against vehicle handling, forgiving coal-rolling retards for intentionally mal-tuning their shit, or universally accepting body kits on anything. I’m talking about biting the hands that feed us. I’m talking about our relationship with the OEMs.
If you took offense just now, I wasn’t talking about everyone in those communities. I was referring to the mouth-breathing shit-heels you’re always telling people don’t truly represent your scene. Stay with that feeling, though. It’s going to help you understand what I’m about to say better than most people.
Bad apples ruin the bunch.
There are next level gearheads in every scene.
Even the scenes you absolutely despise.
For every stretched tire, cambered out piece of shit that can’t get over a speed bump without causing a 2-mile traffic backup, there are a dozen machines so well planned and executed—so fine in every respect—they could be considered master classes in vehicle customization.
For every road raging douchebag rolling coal on other motorists unaware the statement he’s really making in the process isn’t the one he thinks he is, there are 20 who use their earth-shoving torque for good and prove the nobility of the big diesels.
You get what I mean, here.
No matter which scene you’re into, there are gearheads who hate it and are quick to openly mock you for it because of what they’ve seen those bad apples do. And it sucks.
We all put blood, sweat, tears, and cash into our machines. They are extensions of who we are. They reflect our abilities and beliefs and character. And there’s nothing worse than sharing something that important with the world and having ignorant haters shit all over it.
We’ve all experienced this firsthand. Just as there will always be someone better funded than you, there will always be someone who hates you for no good reason.
We should do something about that.
The 24-hour news cycle and social media have wrecked our attention spans. There’s so much going on in so many places so often these days, we don’t even notice all the times we’re leaning on uninformed assumptions and bad experiences in our daily lives.
We don’t have time to actually look at that body kit install and see that it’s not painted yet because the owner wants to make sure everything fits just right before he finalizes the install and drops it off for a professional, show quality paint job. So our brains tell us, “Just another ricer with a body kit.”
Funny how often we have time to talk shit, but not to think before doing so.
Which brings me to what inspired me to write this piece.
I’m a Mitsubishi guy. M-Gen, if you will.
Call me a fanboy. I don’t care. I’ve been driving Mitsubishis since 1996. They’ve literally changed my life. If I hadn’t bought my 97 DSM, I don’t know that I’d be publishing a car magazine today. Or working any of the cool jobs I’ve had since 2009.
In 2000, Mitsubishi introduced the third generation Eclipse. The venerable 4G63T and AWD were no more, replaced by a heavier, FWD-only, V6-GT platform. We lost our shit. And what were they thinking with those strakes on the sides? Grand Touring Eclipse is a good thing. Grand Am Eclipse is not.
Six years later, the 4th gen came out. It looked a lot better—and it’s 265hp, 3.8L MIVEC V6 made it the most powerful Eclipse ever offered—available with a 6-speed manual, too—but we were still butthurt about the lack of 4G63T and AWD.
The new (read: final) Lancer Evolution came out about the same time. This one DID come with a turbo-four, AWD, and a manual gearbox—but it wasn’t the now almost 30-year old Sirius engine under the hood, so it was immediately deemed fat and stupid…
And the latest in an endless list of reasons why Mitsubishi was failing as a business.
(Sigh.) I’ve been driving Monteros for over five years now and it’s not much different on that front either.
After all, Mitsubishi has been winning awards for their trucks everywhere they’re sold; Pajero, Challenger, Triton, Delica—these are some of the most capable 4WDs on the planet. And at least twice a month, I come across some misguided Montero owner bitching about how stupid it is Mitsubishi doesn’t sell them in the United States.
Nevermind the fact that import tariffs are designed to make foreign-assembled light trucks uncompetitive against domestics.
Nevermind the fact that none of the high performance models mentioned above likely accounted for more than 5-10% of total sales of their respective platforms.
Nevermind the fact that most of the people bitching and moaning about any of this never actually bought any of these vehicles when they were new.
Nevermind the fact that, despite our knowledge of specific models potentially rivaling that of the engineers who designed them, we don’t know shit about how the industry works.
Sure, we know they need to move units. We know they need to sell cars and that means they have to offer cars that the disinterested, commuter cattle crowd will buy.
It’s a classic Catch-22.
We want to support our favorite OEMs. Best way to do that is through buying new cars.
And we’re cool with that. Totally.
But we also know that, if we go out and buy new models that don’t tick all the boxes, we’re reinforcing the brand’s decision to not offer those features. Why would Mitsubishi give us a turbo, AWD Mirage hatchback if we’ll just buy the regular one?
What do we want? What are our completely irrational demands?
We want driver-oriented vehicles.
We want to get the big engine with a manual transmission. That goes for turbocharged and all-wheel drive models, too. We’ll take an automatic if that’s what it takes to get it made, but give it an automated manual. Enough with the CVTs already.
We want enthusiast-friendly purchase experiences.
We don’t want to deal with the struggling-with-quota sales rep who knows nothing about the car. We don’t want to listen to his manager feed us bullshit scarcity tactics, either. Let us order direct. Keep the dealerships, but let us support you directly.
We want a seat at the table.
Damnit. We love our vehicles. Our lives pretty much revolve around them. We’ve been building communities around your products for DECADES. We’ve spent our own money to do so. We organize cruises, events, and more around your brand.
Why are you still paying marketing shills when you have entire armies of passionate owners who believe in your brand, your mission, and your product line?
Oh yeah. Because you need to sell cars and all we seem to do is bitch and moan because you’re not currently offering anything we’d like to buy at well-used off Craigslist prices five years after it came out.
(Whew! I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get this thing back on the rails again!)
The disconnect between automotive OEMs and enthusiast owners is widening. After 20-plus years in the community, I’m going on the record as saying it’s caused by three primary factors:
We modify our machines. We improve them. And because we improve them, we feel a sense of superiority, as this is how they should have come from the factory. Except…
We’re cheap bastards, most of us, who never actually bought them when they did. So they stopped offering them. If we don’t buy their cars, we are not their customers—no matter how many branded shirts, jackets, hats, and tattoos we have.
And we don’t fully understand the geo-political, socio-economic factors forcing the OEMs into limited choices we don’t agree with. So instead of doing anything at all productive to help our beloved OEMs move more units, become more profitable, and recognize our role in their success by maybe offering the hot setup once in a while—we talk shit on social media.
Around the world in a fail
I recently went digging for some model-specific sales numbers I suspected might help me illustrate why the Eclipse lost its turbo and why the Lancer Evolution was retired. Nobody had the data.
Everyone I engaged with was courteous, friendly, and professional. I sincerely appreciate their willingness to help me in my quest. And yet, a series of introductions ultimately resulted in my getting a tone-deaf email about the Lancer Evolution from someone at a southern California marketing agency.
Now, I know someone out there is going to read that and think, “Yeah. Mitsubishi is dumb.”
STFU and GTFO.
They make planes, trains, boats, nuclear power plants, commercial lasers, turbochargers, TVs, air conditioners, and much, much more beyond cars. They are a solid, principled organization with global aspirations. They’re not going anywhere.
Statistically speaking, most people bitching and moaning about the death of the DSM or Evo or VR4 never bought one new anyway. And those who did and still make such wild claims simply don’t understand the economics behind the business decisions.
I share my experience for two reasons:
First, to show that OEMs are dealing with so many competing interests and rulebooks, it’s no wonder they struggle. They’re expected to make everyone happy—their customers, their investors, the national and regional governments dictating the fuel economy, emissions, safety, performance, tax, and pricing rules they have to meet in order to do business in the first place.
What happens when you try being all things to all people? At the end of the day, they need to sell what the people who buy their vehicles want to buy—not pander to mouthy sycophants on Instagram.
Second, to show that I still love Mitsubishi Motors, believe in their mission, share their vision, and want to do more than just buy a new Eclipse Cross or Outlander PHEV. (I’ve casually shopped both and the Mirage in the last 90 days, easily.)
I want to help my gearhead brothers and sisters better understand the realities they face so we can be more effective advocates—regardless which brands we prefer. If we’re going to be true experts on our favorite vehicles, we need to understand more than just how to throw bolt-ons at them. We need to understand how they’re made and why they’re sold—or not sold—in the first place.
So where do we go from here?
Frankly, I’m not sure. As a gearhead myself, I’m about as far removed from the realities of the automotive industry as anyone I’ve mentioned above. But I’m gonna start investigating this.
I’ve asked a few questions here and there and got a few ledes. Initially, I’m thinking we’ll dig into the regulatory issues keeping the Pajero and Triton out of the USDM. (I’m having trouble finding sales numbers for the turbo/NT DSM and Evo, remember.)
And we’ll see where that leads us. Being a Mitsubishi guy, I’m going to research Mitsubishi models, but I’m open to working and sharing insights with anyone who knows this space and wants to help change hearts and minds. Please get in touch.
There are plenty of reasons why they don’t offer that specific model or trim package you want—and 99.999% of the time, it’s NOT because the OEM is making bad decisions. It’s time we, the gearheads, got to know the automotive industry as well as we know the automotive lifestyle.
Because once we figure out how things work, we’re really good at making them better.
Gearheads always do.