GENEVA -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. aims to boost European sales to 250,000 units by 2007 as it targets profitable expansion while rebuilding consumer trust, the head of its European operations told Reuters on Wednesday.
The embattled Japanese carmaker, shaken by a string of domestic recalls and by last year's breakup with German partner DaimlerChrysler, is counting on Europe and emerging markets in Asia to help grow its way out of losses.
But Tim Tozer, who took the reins in Europe in September, said Mitsubishi Motors' profitable European arm was shooting for measured sales growth that will generate cash flow while keeping costs under control.
The plan is to boost sales in its three top markets -- Britain, Germany and Russia -- to 150,000 cars, pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles in 2007 from just over 101,000 in 2004. Another 100,000 would come in its 33 other European markets, he said.
In all, the maker of the Pajero SUV had 2004 European sales of 226,000 vehicles, up nearly 9 percent.
Tozer said he was happy with sales of its Colt compact car, a three-door version of which was rolled out in January. The Colt racked up 20,000 sales last year in Europe after a staged launch starting in May.
"The annualized running rate that I think we can get to on Colt is about 85,000 cars. That is lower than the original plan, but the market is competitive. We are getting the balance right between volume and profit," Tozer said.
Mitsubishi makes the Colt at its Dutch plant NedCar, which also makes the Smart ForFour model for Daimler. The partners had been in talks on Daimler getting a stake in NedCar, but these came to naught.
NedCar is operating below its full capacity of around 170,000 cars a year, he said, but Mitsubishi Motors has been too busy with the fallout from the recall scandal and the Daimler divorce to find ways to improve the situation.
"Within the next -- I guess -- six months we will start to take a more definitive view about how we utilize the capacity at NedCar better," he said.
Tozer said he would be glad to explore cooperation deals along the lines of Mitsubishi's agreement to supply minicars to Nissan in Japan, make SUVs for France's PSA, or buy diesel engines from Volkswagen.
"If there were other types of realtionships that we can explore with other motor companies, we'll do that, but these things take time," he said.