In fact, ONeill says that he was a prime initiator of the agency review.
I fully support the review, ONeill says. I believe its necessary in going forward. I proposed it at a dealer meeting not too long ago, and all 17 dealers present raised their hands in support.
ONeill, 52, resigned from struggling Mitsubishi Monday, Jan. 3, and yesterday said that he will be the next CEO of the Reynolds and Reynolds Co. in Dayton, Ohio, one of the two largest software and technology providers to dealerships in the United States.
He takes over the CEO role from Phil Odeen, who had been acting CEO since Buzz Waterhouse resigned in July. Odeen remains as Reynolds chairman.
Mitsubishi's U.S. manufacturing president, Rich Gilligan, will replace O'Neill.
Sources inside and outside Mitsubishi said the agency review was a complete surprise to ONeill and the rest of the marketing staff. Mitsubishi is about to launch two key products: the redesigned Eclipse, which is due to go on sale in late spring, and a mid-sized pickup, which will go on sale in the fall.
A Mitsubishi dealer who requested anonymity and is familiar with the agency review says that ONeill was not 100 percent behind it.
The sources say Deutsch already was working on teaser ads for the Eclipse. The agency review is for 90 days, ending in March. The sources say that no way would ONeill initiate a review so close to the release of Mitsubishis halo product, the Eclipse.
Mitsubishi held its Christmas lunch at Deutsch on Dec. 1. At that time, O'Neill told Automotive News that as Mitsubishi tries to rebound in this country at the heart of the brand will be the new Eclipse.
When asked directly if he initiated the agency review, ONeill replied, Absolutely.
So Im a full proponent of that, ONeill says. I think its appropriate for Mitsubishi at this stage to take a look at its options going forward, where the best ideas may be. I think that Deutsch will have a full and fair opportunity to participate.
ONeills departure from Mitsubishi has nothing to do with the agency review issue, he stresses. I fully support that direction.
Chuck Barber, chairman of the Mitsubishi dealer council, says he is surprised and disappointed in ONeills sudden departure.
I still think Finbarr was the right man for the job, says Barber, owner of Barber Brothers in Orem, Utah.
Barber says the dealership body will get through the change.
We have a strong dealer body, and I think its the dealer body that can make this franchise work, Barber says. We'll get through it. Were survivors.
Barber calls Gilligan, ONeills replacement, a good guy.
He took over the factory when it was a nightmare: the sexual harassment, racial discrimination, Barber says. I think he walked into a worse mess (at the plant) than we are in now (on the sales side). But he made a showplace of that factory. Maybe he can do the same thing in his new job.
You may e-mail Ralph Kisiel at [email protected]
You may e-mail Kathy Jackson at [email protected]