Ian Beavis, senior vice president for marketing, resigned from Mitsubishi on Nov. 24.
Mitsubishi's November sales plunged 50.9 percent to 8,301 vs. the year-ago month. Sales through November fell 36.9 percent to 150,458.
Last week's dealer meeting in Cypress, Calif., followed the abrupt resignation of Ian Beavis, Mitsubishi Motors North America's senior vice president for marketing.
Dealers have been critical of the U.S. advertising strategy, as have Mitsubishi executives in Japan.
Beavis resigned Nov. 24, one day after he announced the hiring of former Hyundai Motor America executive Bob Martin as director of brand marketing, a new position.
Mitsubishi had said it would advertise its broad warranty program in the next year. In TV commercials that began airing in October, Mitsubishi pushes the warranty programs that it adopted last summer. They include a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain guarantee, a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 3-year/45,000-mile free maintenance policy.
The company will continue to advertise its warranties. But Mitsubishi Motors North America CEO Finbarr O'Neill says the marketing focus will change to product next year.
"Our message has to be about putting the foot on the pedal and taking off," O'Neill says. "You will see our marketing focused in that direction."
The company will introduce a redesigned Eclipse sports car in the spring and the new mid-sized Raider pickup in the fall.
Mitsubishi dealers have complained that the company's commercials have failed to drive customers into showrooms. Before the warranty ad campaign, Mitsubishi had run commercials that pit the Galant sedan and Endeavor SUV against rivals.
In Japan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Chairman Yoichiro Okazaki has been critical of the company's U.S. advertising.
"We may need to rethink how we do the advertisements in the United States, the methodology," Okazaki said. "We have to think, 'Were the advertisements we've used in the United States really appropriate?' We could have done it in a little more intelligent way to make Mitsubishi cars appealing to the customers."
Beavis joined Mitsubishi in November 2003.
The company has not named a replacement, but O'Neill says a search is under way.
O'Neill says he is generally pleased with the company's marketing and that he feels good about its sales performance. Mitsubishi is on track to sell about 164,000 vehicles in 2004, down from 256,810 in 2003 and 345,111 in 2002.
"It's a three-year turnaround deal," O'Neill said. "We have a task ahead of us, but we expect to drive up natural demand for the product."
O'Neill blamed much of the decrease on the company's cutback on fleet sales and balloon and deferred payment programs, which he said accounted for 50 percent of U.S. sales last year.
According to R.L Polk & Co., retail sales were down by 31.5 percent for the first nine months of the year.
Staff Reporter James Treece contributed to this report
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