Last time on Rare Rides we introduced Mitsubishi’s Debonair, which began its tenure as Mitsubishi’s flagship luxury sedan in 1963 and remained the same for a very long time. Upon the model’s second generation in 1986, the Debonair made the switch to front-drive and adopted more modern looks in an attempt to appeal beyond very conservative large sedan buyers in Japan.
But the changes still weren’t enough, as we’ll see today.
In a hint at what was to come, Mitsubishi sold its largest car design to Hyundai, who lightly rebadged the car and sold it in South Korea as the Grandeur. A new flagship name for Hyundai, the Grandeur initially started out with Mitsubishi components which Hyundai swapped out for its own over time. You’d know the Grandeur as the Azera, nee XG350.
The second-generation Debonair was not as successful as the first, and its conservative and Japan-only market forced Mitsubishi to additionally create the Diamante luxury sedan to appeal to a more global audience. A third-generation Debonair debuted for 1992, and was again more successful in the Korean market as the Grandeur than at home. Circa 1999, Mitsubishi noticed that Hyundai was better at selling its large sedan than it was, and entered a joint effort with Hyundai to develop the long-wheelbase Dignity.
Going larger and upmarket, Mitsubishi took aim directly at the Toyota Century and Nissan President with its new Japanese-Korean luxury sedan. The Dignity was introduced simultaneously (and produced domestically) in South Korea as the Hyundai Equus, and enjoyed much sales success there in a run through 2009. Your author lived there at the time, and the Equus was the large domestic sedan of choice for the successful Korean businessman.
But the Japanese market rejected the Dignity (and standard-wheelbase version Proudia) entirely, and Mitsubishi shifted around 1,200 total examples of both variants between 1999 and 2001. Just 59 of those were the flagship Dignity version. Mitsubishi gave up for a while, but tried once more to capture the large sedan market with another Proudia. That one existed from 2012 through 2016 and was a rebadged Infiniti Q70 (Nissan Cima). So far, Mitsubishi hasn’t shot across the bow of the large luxury sedan again, and the Q70 wasn’t especially full-size anyway.
Next time we’ll get to the reason all these articles were generated: The time AMG got involved to boost the second generation Debonair’s driving excitement.