TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s launch in Canada and Mexico later this year will get a boost from the carmaker's ties to the Chrysler group through DaimlerChrysler AG.
Mitsubishi President Rolf Eckrodt told the company's annual shareholder meeting that the automaker will reap "a huge advantage in cost and time" by using Chrysler's distribution network in the two countries.
Noting Mitsubishi's announcement that it will build its Pajero sport-utility in China at DaimlerChrysler's Beijing Jeep affiliate, and plans for Chrysler, Hyundai and Mitsubishi to jointly build 1.3 million engines a year, Eckrodt said: "These are benefits achievable only in such a global alliance."
Indeed, without the link to DaimlerChrysler, which owns 37.3 percent of Mitsubishi, the Japanese carmaker might not have been able to enter the Mexican market. Under Mexican law, only carmakers building vehicles there can import vehicles for sale in Mexico.
"We're now discussing how to develop our sales network" in Mexico, said Mitsubishi spokesman Fumio Nishizaki. He did say Mitsubishi will "use Chrysler's import license" to sell vehicles that will be badged as Mitsubishis.
"We expect about one third of Mitsubishi's dealers in Canada to come from" the ranks of Chrysler dealers, he said.
In February, Pierre Gagnon, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. president, said the company was approaching "every Five-Star Chrysler dealer in the country" and recruiting them to become Mitsubishi dealers.
In September, Mitsubishi aims to open simultaneously in the 23 largest markets in Canada with 51 dealers. That is roughly one-tenth the number of dealers Mitsubishi has in the U.S. market, which is about 10 times the size of the Canadian new-vehicle market.
Mitsubishi expects to sell 20,000 vehicles in Canada its first full year, rising to 38,000 annually by the fifth year, when it aims to have 150 stores selling its vehicles. Its product lineup in Canada is expected to be virtually identical to that in the United States.
In other comments, Eckrodt said a decision on the fate of the company's commercial truck operation, Mitsubishi Fuso, would be decided "by the end of the year, but I hope earlier." Mitsubishi has been considering a spinoff or sale of the unit.