In U.S. first, Mitsubishi and Nissan team on EV, pickup, plug-in hybrid

ATSUGI, Japan — It took a while, but Nissan and Mitsubishi are finally teaming on U.S. products.

Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida broke the news this week, outlining the first major cross-company vehicle collaboration between the Japanese companies aimed at the U.S. market.

Nissan will launch its first North America plug-in hybrid, based on a system engineered by Mitsubishi. And Mitsubishi will launch a local product using Nissan’s electric vehicle technology.

Meanwhile, Nissan and Mitsubishi will jointly develop a next-generation pickup to be produced in Mexico. Full-electric and plug-in hybird versions of that truck are under consideration.

The 1-ton pickup would likely land as a successor to the Nissan Frontier.

That vehicle could also expand Mitsubishi’s local lineup with the midsize pickup that U.S. dealers have clamored for. Mitsubishi’s Triton pickup is sold overseas, but the carmaker is stymied in bringing it stateside because the Triton faces a stiff 25 percent tariff on imported light trucks.

Building such a pickup in Mexico would allow shipment to the U.S. and Latin America.

Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. have been bound in a corporate alliance since 2016. That is when former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn snatched a controlling 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi after the smaller Japanese competitor was embroiled in an emissions cheating scandal.

Nissan and Mitsubishi have long partnered on minicars, both electric and gasoline, for the Japanese market. Mitsubishi also borrowed the platform and engine of the Nissan Rogue crossover for the latest generation of its Outlander for global markets.

Yet, big joint projects targeting North America haven’t been a priority.


But now, pooling resources is more important than ever as the Japanese partners chase scale to help share the burden of developing new vehicles in the costly age of electrification. Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida highlighted deeper cooperation with Mitsubishi and longtime French partner Renault as key to sustaining profitability in the midterm business plan he unveiled March 25.

“We can’t do everything alone,” Uchida said. “We need partnerships to fill strategic gaps.”

In North America, that means working with Mitsubishi on the next-generation 1-ton pickup and launching a plug-in hybrid together. Mitsubishi, he said, will “utilize Nissan EV assets” there.

In February, Mitsubishi Executive Vice President Hiroshi Nagaoka said his company, which fields one of the smallest portfolios in the U.S., was in talks with alliance partners to source rebadged vehicles. At the time, Mitsubishi declined to identify the vehicles.

“In North America, we will receive a supply of vehicles from our alliance partners to a certain extent. We will receive what is necessary in our overall product lineup,” Nagaoka said. “In the electrification shift, new cars will become necessary. So we are discussing with our partners.”

Swapping badges on cars supplied from partnering companies can be a quick fix. But it doesn’t always deliver long-term sustainability and can sometimes dilute brand image.

“The difficulty with finding the right partnership is, in part, finding a company with needs that compliment yours,” said Stephanie Brinley, auto analyst and associate director at AutoIntelligence. “Entering a partnership purely to achieve scale faster is unlikely to be successful in a longer time frame. Partnerships with other major OEMs can be difficult to execute.”


The plug-in hybrid would be Nissan’s second plug-in globally, following a crossover for China based on technology from Nissan’s joint venture partner there, Dongfeng Nissan. That vehicle, sold under the China-market Venucia brand, went on sale last July.

Nissan has no hybrids in its U.S. lineup. The brand was caught flat-footed by the uptick in U.S. demand for gasoline-electric hybrids amid slowing sales growth for EVs.

Nissan’s operating profit inched ahead just 6 percent in the latest quarter as the company failed to capitalize on interest in hybrids. In announcing the results last month, CFO Stephen Ma said the company was reexamining its hybrid road map for the U.S.

“We are now studying what we can do for the U.S. market,” he said. “So stay tuned. We will come back with some answer on what we can do with a hybrid in the U.S.”

The plug-in hybrid from Mitsubishi is part of that answer.


The battery enables EV-only driving at a more affordable price, while the gasoline engine offers a safety net to drivers concerned about range anxiety or the charging infrastructure.

“These reasons, combined with some of the incentives that are coming in the U.S., is why we thought it was wise to diversify a little bit of our portfolio,” Chief Planning Officer Ivan Espinosa said.

Espinosa declined to give other details of the plug-in, such as body style or production site.


Further down the road, Nissan and Mitsubishi will introduce the jointly developed pickup. The companies are still discussing the potential for EV and plug-in hybrid variants, Espinosa said.

The pickup is expected to arrive between March 31, 2027, and March 31, 2031, he said.

“It’s what we are discussing with Mitsubishi,” Espinosa said, “how we can find good synergies and scale between both companies to give something meaningful for the customers.”

An electrified pickup could help Nissan achieve its emissions goals, while bringing a product to compete against battery-powered trucks from rivals including Rivian, Tesla, Ford and Chevrolet.

Before its redesign in 2021 — the Frontier’s first significant redo in 17 years — the Nissan midsize pickup was a workhorse-type vehicle aimed at price-conscious buyers.

Last year, Nissan sold 76,183 Frontiers in the U.S., up 26 percent from 2021.


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