Mitsubishi committed to U.S. market, president says
Struggling automaker's future hinges on sales of the new Outlander and a reintroduction of the Mirage.
Mitsubishi's U.S. lineup has been reduced to just four models: the Lancer and Galant sedans, the Outlander crossover and the plug-in electric i-MiEV. As of October, year-to-date sales were down 29 percent. The automaker’s market share has declined significantly, and the i-MEiV has been a sales dud.
What are Mitsubishi’s plans for a turnaround, and should we expect to see the smallest of the Japanese automakers go the way of Suzuki? According to Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko, the company shouldn’t be counted out just yet.
In a recent interview with Automotive News, Masuko said he projects U.S. sales will hit 55,000 units in the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2013. He added that the automaker is aiming for U.S. sales to increase to 80,000 units the following year by augmenting its lineup with new vehicles, including resurrecting the Mirage nameplate -- last seen in 2002 -- to capitalize on the current fuel-efficient small-car craze.
On the other end of the size spectrum is the 2014 Outlander crossover, which Mitsubishi unveiled at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show last week. Masuko said he plans to boost production at the Illinois plant that produces the Outlander Sport to 70,000 from the current 50,000.
But will it be enough to keep the brand in the U.S. market?
Masuko told Automotive News that Mitsubishi will halt U.S. production of the Galant, Spyder, Endeavor and Eclipse this year to reduce total volume, “because these models are old and it was very difficult for them to keep their competitive edge.”
Masuko also noted that not all of the Outlanders produced in the U.S. are destined to stay here, but will be exported to Russia, the Middle East and Latin America. But he does expect sales volume of the Outlander to grow considerably next year, when the redesigned model is introduced in July. The Mirage will be introduced in the U.S. in September for what Masuko calls “a fuller, more extensive lineup of vehicles.”
He also mentioned that an Outlander plug-in hybrid -- the first of its kind in the crossover segment -- will be introduced in January 2014, and he says he expects it to do better than the dismal sales of the i-MiEV. “I think this is a better fit for the U.S. market,” Masuko said of the Outlander PHEV.
Masuko noted that an electric version of the Mirage is also possible, although it wouldn’t have the range of the Outlander, “so we're not really sure if it would be accepted in the United States. Masuko conceded that for the i-MiEV, “not everything went according to plan,” but added that the “technology is a must and indispensable for developed economies.”
Masuko added that while EVs and emerging markets are the “two pillars that we have to tackle,” he insists that Mitsubishi has “no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the U.S. market. We are producing the Outlander Sport [in the U.S.] now, but in years to come we would like to produce other models there, too.”
[Source: Automotive News]
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