TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors plans to stop developing car platforms for the Japanese market and instead use vehicle bases made by ally Nissan Motor beginning around 2026, Nikkei has learned, the latest indication of realignment in an industry that requires huge investments in technology.
Mitsubishi aims to shift its research and development investment into electric vehicles and other technologies.
The plans show how difficult it has become for midsize automakers to maintain independent vehicle development as costs soar. Mitsubishi would be Japan's first automaker to terminate the development of platforms used for passenger cars sold in Japan. The company would continue developing interiors, exteriors and drive devices.
The platform is a car's foundational component, serving as a base for the engine, interior and exterior. Developing one can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, or about half the development cost of a new car.
For this reason, several models often share the same platform.
Mitsubishi Motors had eight platforms as of March. The carmaker looks to reduce that to four by March 2026. It expects to develop two by itself for Southeast Asia, its core market.
The remaining two platforms would be co-developed with Nissan. Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan and France's Renault are in the same alliance. The two Japanese companies by 2019 were sharing 40% of their platforms; they are now looking to work more closely together.
Mitsubishi Motors has suffered losses for the past two fiscal years and is stopping the production of unprofitable models, including that of a sedan in 2016 and the Pajero SUV in July.
The company has an R&D budget of 99 billion yen ($900 million) for the fiscal year ending March 2022, 30% less than its record-high amount for fiscal 2019. The budget is expected to stay around 100 billion yen.
Other carmakers have also cut down on costly platform investment. Subaru has folded two types of platforms into one since 2016.
Honda Motor will work with General Motors to develop platforms for EVs sold in North America, while Ford Motor is sharing EV platforms with Germany's Volkswagen.