Mitsubishi's UK Exit: The Other Drop-Outs
A look back at some other manufacturers that packed up their bags.
As many of you may have seen in recent motoring news, Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi is to pull out of the UK and European market. The brand will continue to sell its current range of cars for as long as they have remaining stock and the current emissions regulations are in place, so if you want an L200 pick-up truck or one of the rather dull crossover vehicles in their range, get down to your local dealer whilst you still can. For those of you who have already taken the plunge, do not fear! The Colt Car Company, who own the network of UK Mitsubishi dealerships will continue to undertake warranty work and offer parts and services in servicing centres around the country, so that the current crop of customers will still be looked after for the foreseeable future.
Mitsubishi suffered a substantial loss during the first quarter of the financial year, resulting in their recent decision to pull out of the UK and Europe as a part of their recovery plan. Despite this they will live on as a brand and will continue to sell vehicles and develop their wide range elsewhere in the world.
Mitsubishi now joins a list of other manufacturers who decided to withdraw from the UK market due to either dwindling sales figures or ‘make-or-break’ business moves, which brings us to the topic of this article. It seems like a good idea to reminisce and take a look at some of the other brands that no longer sell their cars to the British public.
In the late-nineties, you would quite often find that someone you know would have a Daewoo in their house. Be it a television set or a washing machine, South Korean company Daewoo were prolific sellers of white goods. They sold cars too, which amounted to the same thing, really.
When Daewoo first came to the UK car market in 1995 they sold directly through what they called a ‘Motor Show’ - not a traditional showroom filled with eager salesmen on commission. It was all based around providing a different type of customer buying experience including a fixed price with no haggling, but with a ton of freebies and extraordinary amounts of aftersales. It did initially show a lot of promise, but before long customers started to realise despite all the customer care and pleasant buying experience, they would rather sacrifice this to have a good car rather than an average one.
Nexia and Espero were the first Daewoo cars to be available here, and were nothing more than an already out of date Vauxhall Astra and Cavalier in new clothes. This resulted in cars so painfully dull that you really could have been driving one of Daewoos tumble dryers and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Early into the new millennium after a General Motors buy out, the Daewoo badge began to be phased out to and replaced with Chevrolet, and by 2005 Daewoo vanished from our shores for good, leaving Chevrolet UK with a range of rebadged old microwaves.. sorry.. cars, to try and flog alongside the Corvette. Lucky them.
American giant Chrysler first came to Britain during a merger of three European companies in an attempt to strike up some sales in the far reaches of the continent. The result of this was a range of cars sold throughout the 1970s that were inherited from the merging companies - Simca from France, Rootes from the UK and Barreiros from Spain. Together they formed Chrysler Europe.
In 1971 the Chrysler 180 was launched to a reasonable reception. Marketed as the Chrysler 2-litre in Britain, it was the first car to wear the Chrysler badge in Europe. The Chrysler Avenger and Hunter which came later were simply rebadged Hillman Avenger’s and Hunter’s, which by the late 1970s when they received a Chrysler badge, were outdated designs and should long have been pensioned off to be replaced entirely rather than re-dressed. The more modern opposition on offer was enough to tempt customers away, leading to floundering sales. The Chrysler badge was dropped in 1979 when PSA bought Chrysler Europe for a whole one dollar and took on the huge debts that had culminated for themselves, spelling the end of the Chrysler name in the UK. The cars were rebranded yet again, this time as Talbots, continuing the Chrysler legacy well into the 1980s.
In the mid-nineties, Chrysler tried again and brought some home-grown American cars over to sell in Europe. The first of which in the UK - the Neon, was disappointing and well regarded to this day as terrible. The cars offered over the next two decades were better suited to their home market and flawed in some vital areas - the PT Cruiser was truly hideous, the 300C was a stodgy mess of an executive muscle car-esque saloon, and the Voyager was so horrifically unsafe it was the first car the score zero out of five in the EuroNCAP crash tests. A few examples of why the vehicles we were offered over here were just not worth a consideration to most people when the European and Japanese rivals made much stronger cases for themselves.
Chrysler carried on in the UK until 2015. Painfully low sales, aged designs and ever tightening CO2 regulations meant they had to bow out. The Ypsillion became an order-only model until 2017 when the company's departure became official.
In 1965 Daihatsu exported the first Japanese car to the UK - the Compagno Berlina which was marketed here for a brief time. This started off the trickle of exportation of Japanese cars that soon became a flood all over Europe, from the likes of Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
Daihatsu became renowned in the UK as sellers of quirky, dinky, little city cars like the hardy Charade, and rugged off-roaders like the Fourtrack and Terios. Hidden somewhere in the background during the 1980s and 90s were a few forgettable anomalies barely remembered today, such as the Charmont and Applause. But for the most part, Daihatsu offered a range of distinctive, characterful cars.
The barely remembered Daihatsu Applause. This one sadly scrapped.
Individuality was a common feature among the range of cars. The Hijet MPV was a ridiculous looking six seater which proved people moving didn’t need size… or speed... or dignity. The Copen was a wacky looking cabriolet designed for the Japanese Kei car regulations and therefore had a weedy 660cc engine and foldaway hard-top. A sales flop over here, but the fact they thought we may buy it in droves is admirable of them to say the least; it could compete for title of most feminine cabriolet of all time alongside the Ford StreetKA.
Despite its oddball wackiness and back to basics budget motoring ethics, Daihatsu announced in 2011 that it was to pull out of the UK market. Thanks to the Japanese Yen increasing in value, selling cars in Europe would become unprofitable whilst retaining the low list price of the cars themselves.
A small insight there into the stories of manufacturers no longer gracing our shores, among others of course. Do you have a favourite, or one you miss? Perhaps there is a different one you would like to see make a comeback? Imagine a Daewoo rebirth! Actually, don’t.