Some days, it's nice to be a Mitsubishi dealer

UPDATED: 4/28/16 5:31 pm ET – corrected

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story described incorrectly when Mitsubishi first publicly acknowledged that the company’s improper fuel-consumption test procedures began in 1991.

Earlier this week it looked like Mitsubishi could become the next automaker to “pull a Volkswagen” and face a possible shellacking by the EPA for cheating.

After all, the Japanese automaker admitted this week that it had used improper fuel consumption tests in Japan since 1991. The EPA, California Air Resources Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration want to know: Were U.S. vehicles involved?

To the delight of its dealers, who are finally riding some U.S. sales momentum after years of pain, Mitsubishi answered with a definitive “no.”

In a letter to dealers on Wednesday, Mitsubishi Motors North America COO Don Swearingen wrote that an internal audit covering the last five model years of fuel economy data submitted to the EPA had found no red flags.

How did Mitsubishi quickly provide the kind of clarity and closure that Volkswagen dealers still yearn for? It was a combination of luck and fast work.

By coincidence, Mitsubishi spokesman Alex Fedorak says, Mitsubishi Motors R&D of America staffers were in Japan last week when the cheating became public. The group dropped what it was doing and “immediately” started the audit, he said.

Within a week, Mitsubishi was certain enough to tell U.S. dealers that fuel economy testing for all U.S. vehicles from the 2013 model year to the present “strictly” adhered to EPA procedures and was “independently verified for its accuracy” before being sent to the agency.

Volkswagen dealers haven’t been so fortunate. More than seven months have passed since the diesel violations were made public, and it’s still unknown when VW can resume selling new diesels, how — or whether — its noncompliant diesels can be fixed and how a proposed buyback program will work.

After covering Mitsubishi’s struggles for four years as Automotive News’ West Coast reporter, I thought I’d never say this: It must be nice to be a Mitsubishi dealer.

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