TOKYO - Mitsubishi plans a two-pronged strategy in China, selling its newest models under its own brand and allowing its local partners to continue selling vehicles derived from previous-generation models under their Chinese brands.
Until now, Mitsubishi has had a variety of Chinese partnerships for vehicle and engine production and distribution. Now, in a shift in its China business model, the carmaker wants to raise its stakes in those partners and integrate their operations where possible.
"The model is changing," said Steven Torok, Mitsubishi executive vice president for international car operations, at a press briefing on Mitsubishi's China business.
The new strategy is similar to Mitsubishi's business in other markets, where it is increasingly working with its partners at DaimlerChrysler, particularly the Chrysler unit, as well as Hyundai.
Still, Mitsubishi's approach of working with several local partners using different brands differs significantly from that of General Motors, Toyota and Honda in China. Those companies have sought to work with one or two key partners, with the foreign carmaker's designs used only to build cars bearing that foreign maker's brand. In contrast, "Mitsubishi has not sought to control our partners," Torok said.
One reason Mitsubishi's approach differs from that of GM and Toyota may be that Mitsubishi has been struggling to recover from massive debts and losses. It has not had the cash to invest in half ownership of ventures with large, well-established Chinese partners.
But Mitsubishi's financial problems have not dictated its China strategies, Torok said.
"Since 1980, we have never had a money-losing year" in China, Torok said. "Every one of our business partners in China was profitable last year. Every one is expected to be profitable this year."