TOKYO - A year from now, when Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America has four sport-utilities, trucks will be headed toward making up one-third of the brand's U.S. sales, President Pierre Gagnon says.
Mitsubishi has two sport-utilities in its lineup, and trucks accounted for 27 percent of its 2001 sales.
The surprising strength of the U.S. market may lead Mitsubishi to raise its sales forecast for 2002, he said. Mitsubishi is predicting sales of 340,000, or 2.1 percent of the market, up from 322,393, a 1.9 percent share, in 2001.
This summer Mitsubishi will introduce a redesigned Montero. In August it will launch a small sport-utility based on the Galant platform and built in its Normal, Ill., factory. A crossover vehicle tweaked from the Japanese-market Airtrek will follow in January 2003.
In addition, contrary to earlier plans, Mitsubishi has decided to keep the Montero Sport because it has "a lot of momentum," Gagnon said.
The Airtrek will get a new name, which will be announced at the New York auto show this month. It also will have "more SUV characteristics," such as higher ground clearance, Gagnon said.
With the additional sport-utility from Illinois, he said, the portion of Mitsubishi's U.S. sales that are built in the United States will rise to over 60 percent, from just under 50 percent now.