A new arrangement has been agreed that will see Renault produce two “sister vehicles” for Mitsubishi at its French production facilities, specifically for sale in Europe. However, the Japanese brand remains firm on its decision to leave the UK.
The French government owns a 15 per cent stake in Renault and, as Mitsubishi is partially owned by the French brand, it could soon face accusations of assisting a Renault drive to protect French jobs.
Executives from both Mitsubishi and Nissan have previously expressed concern that the deal was designed as a political bargaining chip to increase the workload in struggling French factories and win union support. A similar move occured back in 2001, when Renault moved production of the Nissan Micra from Sunderland to its Flins factory outside Paris.
Mitsubishi says its plans for the UK market have not changed. The company is still moving steadily towards becoming an after-sales service by the end of the year and there are no official plans to bring Mitsubishi’s newly agreed Renault-based models to Britain.
Takao Kato, CEO of Mitsubishi Motors, said: “Mitsubishi Motors welcomes Renault’s OEM models for the European market, and ultimately new customers. Mitsubishi Motors has been implementing structural reforms in Europe and our decision to freeze new car development for the European Market, announced in July 2020 in our mid-term business plans, remains.
“However, the OEM supply agreement will provide us with a solution to offer new products developed and manufactured in Europe – alongside our ongoing after sales business.”
Should this change, though, Mitsubishi’s UK importer would be met with a problem when it comes to the dealer network. Although the brand still has around 100 dealerships in the UK, a number of outlets have already closed following Mitsubishi’s original exit announcement in July, with dealers fearing supply shortages and the lack of future models.
Financial difficulties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic was another key factor. However, to return Mitsubishi’s dealer network in the UK to its pre-2020 announcement position would require heavy investment and the promise of a steady stream of fresh models.