Make no mistake about it: the Mitsubishi Motors brand has been experiencing a design renaissance in the last 5 years. That was what Mitsubishi needed following years of lukewarm vehicles thanks to a styling philosophy led by now-former chief designer Olivier Boulay.
Now the man who led the post-Boulay design resurgence of Mitsubishi is retiring. Tsunehiro Kunimoto, Mitsubishi's Corporate Vice President and Division General Manager for the Design Division, will be retiring from the company effective April 1, 2020.
His name may not sound familiar to many, but if you drive the current Montero Sport, the Xpander MPV, and the facelifted L200/Strada, then the work he led should be very familiar. Kunimoto was the driving force behind the use of the Dynamic Shield fascia that you see in those models, as well as the other new-generation models not yet present in the Philippines like the Eclipse Cross, the new Delica, and the updated Outlander.
Kunimoto, now 69 years old, has an unusual distinction in the Japanese auto industry, one that he earned when he moved from Ghosn-led Nissan to Mitsubishi Motors in 2014.
Traditionally, Japanese executives and employees stay with one company throughout their entire career. But instead of retiring after 4 decades at Nissan when he was 64 years old, Kunimoto accepted the challenge of turning Mitsubishi's fates around in the field of design. Kunimoto, after all, was a big part of revamping Nissan's design with the Infiniti FX crossover, the G sedan, as well as the 2001 concept that eventually became the 350Z.
Interestingly enough, Kunimoto was also one of the designers behind the Nissan Skyline... the R32.
With Mitsubishi, Kunimoto pushed to create a recognizable, long-term design language that would encompass all their models and convey the strong branding of Mitsubishi Motors, particularly with rugged vehicles like SUVs and trucks. He wanted to tap Mitsubishi's strong lineage in 4x4s that stemmed from toughness and reliability and translate that to their modern vehicle line up.
Kunimoto had been present at significant world premieres by Mitsubishi Motors such as the launching of the new Xpander at one of Indonesia's major motor shows in 2017, and the premiere of the facelifted Strada in Thailand in late 2018.
Mitsubishi has not announced who will succeed Kunimoto in the position of global design chief.