CHICAGO - Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans to spend more than $1 billion to create the next generation Eclipse and Galant as well as a Montero Sport designed for American tastes.
The new vehicles will be designed in the United States, share a new platform and will be larger than the current models. All will be assembled at the company's Normal, Ill., plant.
Speaking at the Chicago Auto Show this month, Pierre Gagnon, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc., said the program to develop a new platform and create three new vehicles is called Project America. Gagnon said the new platform 'is designed to accommodate a wide variety of power plants, suspensions, drivetrains, and it can incorporate significantly different wheelbases and tracks.'
The Montero Sport will be the first vehicle produced under Project America. The sport-utility goes into production in the first quarter of 2003. It will be followed by the Galant in 2004 and the Eclipse in 2005.
'The current Montero Sport is a great product,' Gagnon said, 'but it was designed for the world. We would have liked it just a little bit wider and a little bit bigger, so now we have the opportunity to do that.' The Montero Sport is now assembled in Japan.
Rich Gilligan, senior vice president of Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc., said the next generation Galant will be about 2 to 3 inches longer and 1.5 to 2 inches wider than the 2000 model. Said Gilligan: The size increase 'is not dramatic, but it is a larger platform. It is not as if we are moving up a segment.'
In addition to the Mitsubishi products, the Illinois plant assembles two coupes for DaimlerChrysler - the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring. The Avenger nameplate will be dropped at the end of the 2000 model year and will be replaced for 2001 with the Stratus name. The DaimlerChrysler contract expires in 2005.
Gagnon said that if the contract is renewed, the plant probably would need extra capacity to produce three Mitsubishi vehicles and two for DaimlerChrysler.