TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) is confident it will sell at least 220,000 vehicles in Japan this business year despite a one-month delay in launching a new car, the head of the struggling auto maker said on Monday.
President and COO Hideyasu Tagaya also told a news conference the company would stick to its official sales target of 300,000 vehicles for the 12 months to March 31.
MMC, whose ties with 22-percent owner DaimlerChrysler AG have weakened since the German carmaker gave up trying to rescue it in April, has said it could fall short of the 300,000-unit target by 80,000 units, but it has not officially changed the target.
"We are not thinking at all of changing our target," Tagaya said at the unveiling of the Colt Plus compact wagon, the first new model to be launched since MMC announced a corporate revival plan in May.
"We saw a bottoming in sales in July and customers have gradually been returning to our showrooms since the summer holidays in August," he said.
To achieve the 220,000 unit total, MMC is aiming to limit its sales decline to 40 percent during the October-December quarter from a year earlier and 30 percent in January-March.
Fujio Cho, managing director in charge of domestic operations, said that sales were in fact better than those targets, totalling 96,000 units in the first six months to September.
MMC needs the Colt Plus and the repackaged Colt compact, both mounted with small engines developed jointly with DaimlerChrysler, to meet its scaled-back domestic sales target. The auto maker is aiming to sell a combined 4,000 units from the Colt series per month in Japan.
MMC has seen no respite from a sharp sales slide since the cover-up of problems with vehicles resurfaced this year. Its monthly sales of non-minivehicles in Japan have skidded by more than 50 percent since May.
The bad publicity has also spilled over to its most important U.S. market, where sales have plunged by a similar scale despite aggressive marketing efforts, including a campaign to offer "best-backed cars" through a five-year or 60,000-mile warranty and free maintenance for three years or 45,000 miles.
That leaves MMC relying heavily on emerging markets such as southeast Asia for growth. On Friday, it launched the locally built Grandis in Thailand, where its sales grew by 13 percent last business year. The model is also due to be exported within the region.