21 Feb The flip side: How Mitsubishi Motors is rising from the ashes to win back loyal SA customers
• Mitsubishi once had a strong Colt fan-base in South Africa, until the bakkie was rebranded as the Triton.
• The brand is slowly rebuilding its reputation with a strong product offering complemented by better customer service.
• Good sales growth attributed to its targeted product approach.
Mitsubishi Motors has some good products in South Africa, but the brand seems to be hidden in the shadows. Yet, the automaker has improved significantly over the past couple of years, albeit unnoticeable to the public.
Mitsubishi has been a solid brand in South Africa. Despite lower sales numbers than bigger automakers in the local market, this alternative Japanese brand still has a significant following.
The automaker’s Triton – the Colt reincarnated – is one of its legacy vehicles, along with the Pajero and Outlander. In fact, Mitsubishi has extended its range with a bit of something for everyone again with the ASX, the addition of the Eclipse Cross a couple of years back, and the versatile seven-seater Xpander. The latter two models are their current biggest sellers, along with the Pajero Sport.
In 2021, we reviewed the Mitsubishi Triton. While it’s a great alternative bakkie, we wondered why it wasn’t selling as well as possible when glancing at the monthly National Automobile Association of Manufacturers in South Africa (naamsa) sales figures. During a few days with the vehicle, I had concluded it was probably one of the most frugal bakkies I had driven in all of 2021, with an average fuel consumption of 7.9-litres/100km. That alone is an impressive feat.
But there’s much more to it than measuring a carmaker’s success and growth than just watching the monthly sales tallies.
Wheels24 reader Calvin van Aswegen says about the Triton:
I will never drive anything other than a Mitsubishi. Everyone always complains about pricing etc., but Toyota is not much cheaper either. A 140 000km service with them cost me R15 000 and then only for it to be stolen out of my yard – of course, no fault of their own. Mitsubishi products are much safer in that way, and I feel their reliability outweighs Ford. So definitely, Mitsubishi all the way.
According to previous feedback from our readers, South Africans don’t approve of the Triton name or its looks. However, another Wheels24 reader Musa Matebese says: “Looks are subjective. Are you even aware that Mitsubishi vehicles are amongst the most reliable vehicles on the market; these things don’t break. Yes, they are expensive but well worth it.
“In my opinion, Ford Rangers are terrible and unreliable and not so great off-road. The interiors are not great, but they sell well because they have a considerable following. Tritons are much better bakkies.”
In retrospect, Jeffrey Allison, Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) marketing general manager, says: “2021 will be remembered as a year of recovery and consolidation for the local automotive industry. MMSA continued to perform well in the sales stakes. The brand has shown remarkable growth over the last two years as it continues to listen to its customers, providing high-quality products and exceptional customer service.
Allison also says Mitsubishi’s customer service index results have improved from 92 to 93 over the past three years and currently averages above 95% from January to October 2021.
This phenomenal performance can largely be attributed to the introduction in 2019 of our ‘Fix Right First Time’ strategy, which has become the most important factor in our overall service experience.
Allison says to achieve this, a strong focus was placed on technical training of Mitsubishi’s service and maintenance technicians and improving skills levels at the dealer level. The efforts paid off when, at the end of 2019, one of MMSA’s technical trainers became the first Mitsubishi Top 10 Globally Certified Training Instructor in South Africa.
What else is the company doing to set itself apart as a trusted brand again in SA?
Allison says they’ve also introduced an E-Learning training system, as well as a live Local Tech Line Platform, where technical experts from HQ can assist with vehicle diagnostics. This includes a technical tip-sharing database of information gathered and shared globally.
“We want to ensure that the customer experience is aligned with the expectations of our loyal customer base. Expectations change and evolve, and so do we, and for this reason, we are continuously improving and embracing change,” Allison explains.
“We aim to create lifetime customer loyalty, and the only way to boost our retention rate is to provide excellent service. In fact, we’re so committed to its customers that we urge them to contact us at with any complaints, compliments or feedback in this regard.” You can email them here.
In recent months MMSA has expanded its footprint in South Africa with the opening of six new dealerships. This brings the tally to 47 sales dealers and 53 aftersales dealers nationally.
“The opening of these new facilities is a continuation of MMSA’s approach to the strategic placement of dealerships to capitalise on the popularity of the Mitsubishi brand. It goes hand in hand with our targeted new model strategy and aims to continue bringing new customers into the Mitsubishi fold,” Allison says. “A brand is only as strong as its dealer network, and Mitsubishi is fortunate enough to currently find itself on a very firm footing indeed.”
Proof of the commitment of MMSA’s dealer network is reflected in the results of the most recent National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) Dealer Satisfaction Index Survey (DSI). It provides the dealer body with a platform to give manufacturers and importers with feedback. Dealer councils and manufacturers see it as an effective management tool to address areas of concern and improve service delivery throughout the entire value chain.
Not only did MMSA achieve Gold status, but it was also recognised as the most improved overall brand in 2021 (+10.6%).
“These results not only serve to validate our concerted efforts to set industry-leading aftersales benchmarks to which our dealers have to adhere, but it also proves that we are consistently getting better at it,” says Allison.
“Also worth mentioning is the fact that, earlier in 2021, MMSA was recognised as a top regional performer by Mitsubishi Motors Middle East & Africa (MMMEA). In addition, a local employee was rewarded for being one of the leading service advisors in the region. These accolades followed MMSA’s participation in the first-ever MMMEA Wave CSI Survey, which was conducted during the last quarter of 2020.”
After ten months of trading, MMSA has also experienced noticeable growth in sales performance. Year-to-date figures are a significant 30.1% higher than the corresponding period in 2019 and a staggering 74.4% improvement over 2020.
This impressive showing can largely be attributed to the introduction of the all-new Xpander in June, followed by the launch of the new Eclipse Cross in July.
Allison says: “With the introduction of the Xpander, Mitsubishi is now competing in a completely different price range and segment than before. As such, our sales volumes have been positively impacted. It also speaks to MMSA’s customer-first focus of bringing out the right product for the market, at the right time, with a competitive value proposition.”
The Eclipse Cross has also cemented its place as one of the pillar models for Mitsubishi and has contributed immensely to the brand’s growth over the past few months.
“We have a solid reputation for being able to identify demands and shaping our new vehicle strategy accordingly. Continued customer interest in our diverse range proves that we are getting the mix right in terms of our model derivatives and our target markets. Complemented by an unrelenting focus on top-notch customer service, this bodes well for a strong finish to 2021 and a solid foundation on which to build in the next 12 months.
So what can we expect for this year from the Japanese brand?
“Hold on to your hat because 2022 will be another exciting year for MMSA as we expand or upgrade most of our existing model ranges. The biggest news, however, will be the introduction of the all-new Outlander in the second half of 2022,” says Allison.