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CAR confidential: The guerilla approach

Beleaguered is a term that gets passed from carmaker to carmaker, as businesses naturally boom and bust.

Currently, Ford is most beleaguered, but not so long ago it was Mitsubishi Motor Corporation in the doghouse, when Daimler-Chrysler pulled the plug on its investment.

While the Japanese firm has been getting back on its feet, its UK importer has been posting impressive growth since its dark days in 2000. AM expertly analysed boss Jim Tyrrell’s successful turnaround strategy, but didn’t dwell on his can-do mentality that is broadening the UK line up beyond that of mainland European dealers.

Example: the UK-only FQ Evo series, which took the legs out from grey importers. Or the forthcoming i city car, the rear-engined four-seater that’s the car the Smart ForFour should have been.

Mitsubishi’s Japanese suits have at last rubber stamped UK imports of the i. Around 100 of Mitsubishi’s 140 dealers will sell it, taking a demonstrator and a showroom model. Annual sales of the £8,999 car could hit “a couple of thousand”.

This guerilla approach to new models won’t end there. The Colt Car Company has an even more ambitious idea: to import the US-market Eclipse coupé and cabriolet. A flagship sports car will do even more for the Mitsubishi brand. But whereas the i comes with right-hand drive, the Eclipse is a left-hooker – which traditionally hobbles US imports over here. No problem to Colt, which intends to have a UK specialist relocate the steering wheel across the dash.

Two cars – one 2+2 coupé, one cabrio – have landed in the UK for conversion. They will then do a roadshow around dealers and punters to assess if the bold plan gets the go-ahead. If so, it will be another guerilla decision that is transforming Mitsubishi UK from beleaguered to boom.

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