GENEVA Mitsubishi Motors Corp.s U.S. sales are poised to rebound, the companys CEO says. But the carmaker wont loosen the tap on incentives as it did to its regret several years ago.
I dont know exactly, but January or February will be the low point, I think, says Takashi Nishioka.
Nishioka, 68, CEO of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., took the reins of the car company on Jan. 28.
He met in late February in Tokyo with Rich Gilligan, president of Mitsubishi Motors North America. Based on those conversations, he sees signs in the last several months that consumer interest has been coming back in the United States.
Mitsubishis U.S. sales fell 39.5 percent to 12,477 units in February compared with February 2004.
Mitsubishi will be launching a model in June, he says. That will be the occasion to be aggressive in sales, he says.
But Nishioka rules out any loosening of Mitsubishis restrictive financing policies. We are absolutely not contemplating easing up on our current restrictions, he says.
Nishioka says Gilligan told him that sales in January fell in part because Gilligan believed that he had to maintain the companys tight lending stance. And I agree with him, Nishioka says. We mustnt repeat the past.
Rather than boost incentives, You must be confident in our products, Nishioka recalls telling Gilligan.
Loose credit policies in the late 1990s hurt Mitsubishi when the company suffered a high rate of auto loan delinquencies. In response, the company tightened its lending policies, putting it at a disadvantage in incentive wars.
Nishioka reiterated that Mitsubishi has no plans to replace the Diamante sedan in its lineup.
In the past, he says, Mitsubishi based its sales targets on how many cars it could build at its assembly plant in Normal, Ill. It was a false method, he says. Weve corrected that. Now, he says, we produce what we are able to sell.
Due to Mitsubishis falling sales, the Normal plant has been cut back from two shifts to one. Nishioka implies it wont face further cuts, though. Last year we finished restructuring the plant, he says.
He also reaffirms Mitsubishis commitment to North America.
You may have heard that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. would retreat from the U.S. market, he says. Its not true.