Mitsubishi Motors Europe's new boss expects the company's operations to turn a profit for the first time next year.
Synergies with alliance partner DaimlerChrysler will help achieve the goal, said Stefan Jacoby, who took over as president and CEO of Mitsubishi's European unit in October 2001.
'We are still two groups, so Mitsubishi Motors Europe will not be integrated with D/C's European operations,' said Jacoby. 'But we will benefit from synergies.'
For example, he said media buying and parts distribution costs will be shared between Mitsubishi and D/C. Some dealer showrooms might also be united.
Last year, Mitsubishi sold 212,191 units in western and central Europe.
'We will be happy to achieve that number this year and do better in 2003,' said Jacoby.
In the first two months of 2002, Mitsubishi's sales in Europe were more than 30 percent below the same period last year.
'But we've seen substantial improvement since March,' Jacoby said.
Proposed changes to Europe's block exemption laws, including dealers' new freedom to subcontract service operations, provide opportunities for small-volume brands such as Mitsubishi, he said.
'The new legislation can bring more distribution efficiency, with the possibility of split sales and service locations,' Jacoby said.
He said smaller dealers handling relatively low-volume brands sometimes can't afford to run a full-service shop.
Jacoby said Mitsubishi could also share sales outlets with Mercedes-Benz and other D/C brands under the new rules.
'With a tendency towards multi-brand dealerships, we may benefit from our alliance [with D/C],' he said.
Mitsubishi's turnaround plan for Europe does not include cutting its number of retail sales points.
'We will optimize the number of contract partners, but not reduce outlets,' Jacoby said.
He said Mitsubishi aims to strengthen its brand values. For example, it will emphasize its current strategy of offering cars, minivans and sport-utilities.
'We will position Mitsubishi in the individual European markets with specific crossover niche models,' he said. 'We will focus on more than just the other Japanese volume carmakers. Our branding is aimed at Europe, but is in line with our global strategies. Mitsubishi will remain a very pure Japanese brand, like Sony or Canon.'
Sportiness and recognizable design are the brand traits Mitsubishi is pushing.
'Our design strategy is focused on the individual model's character,' said Olivier Boulay, Mitsubishi's head of design. 'But the recognition will always come from our triple-diamond logo and unique grille design.'
Following the D/C alliance, Mitsubishi's first all-new model in Europe will be a compact car due in 2004. It will be produced at NedCar in Born, the Netherlands.
The first car to benefit from the new Mitsubishi design strategy will be a face-lifted Space Star, which is also produced at NedCar. The new model will be introduced later this year.