Mitsubishi appoints new CEO of N.A. unit

Kobashi joined Mitsubishi Motors in April 1983 and was most recently corporate general manager of the North America office at Mitsubishi headquarters in Japan.
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LOS ANGELES -- Mitsubishi Motors North America named a new CEO to head the automaker's operations as it plots a comeback in the U.S. market.

Ryujiro Kobashi, 54, will take the reins of Mitsubishi's North American unit on March 1, from current chief Yoichi Yokozawa, 49, who has been CEO since April 2011.

Kobashi, who joined the company in April 1983, was most recently corporate general manager of the North America office at Mitsubishi headquarters in Japan. Over the years, Kobashi has held marketing, sales and advertising roles in a variety of overseas markets, including Germany, the Netherlands and Southeast Asia.

"I am very much looking forward to this new opportunity as we navigate Mitsubishi Motors North America to thrive in the U.S. market under MMC's 'New Stage 2016' business plan," Kobashi said in a statement.

He takes over a North American unit that has slowly begun to rebuild momentum after a long product drought.

Yokozawa has overseen the launch of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle, as well as the Outlander and Outlander Sport crossovers and the Mirage small car.

Mitsubishi's U.S. sales grew 8 percent last year to 62,227 vehicles, after hovering below 60,000 vehicles a year since 2009, except for a spike in 2011.

During that period, U.S.-built models such as the Eclipse coupe, Endeavor crossover and Galant mid-sized sedan were phased out of the U.S. lineup as the automaker scaled back on regional vehicle platforms in favor of vehicles it could sell worldwide, such as the Outlander Sport.

Yokozawa oversaw the launch of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric vehicle, as well as the Outlander and Outlander Sport crossovers and the Mirage small car.

Also during his tenure, Mitsubishi invested more than $100 million to retool its lone U.S. assembly plant in Normal, Ill., to build the Outlander Sport compact crossover for sales in North America and export starting in 2012.

Yokozawa will return to Mitsubishi headquarters in Japan for an assignment in the automaker's corporate planning office, the company said in a statement.

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