NEW YORK -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. on Wednesday said it expects U.S. sales to rise 2 percent this year after plunging 37 percent in 2004.
"The lift in sales will come from Eclipse (car) and from the Raider pickup truck," said Rich Gilligan, who took over as chief executive of the Japanese automaker's North American operations after his predecessor Finbarr O'Neill's sudden resignation earlier this year.
U.S. sales will be "up about 2 percent from '04," Gilligan told Reuters.
Mitsubishi will introduce a redesigned Eclipse car this summer and all-new Raider mid-sized pickup truck later this year. The Raider, based on the 2005 Dodge Dakota platform, is expected to be in dealerships in October.
Mitsubishi badly needs to repair its North American operations, which plunged deep into the red after easy loans extended to car buyers with poor credit histories over the years went sour.
Last year, its U.S. sales dropped 37 percent to 161,600 units -- the lowest in 15 years and less than half what it sold just two years before. Its U.S. market share fell one half a percentage point to 1.0 percent.
Gilligan blamed the drop in 2004 on an intentional pullback of low-margin sales to fleet customers.
"Our goal is in the next three to four years to be between 1 to 2 percent market share," Gilligan said. "That's where we feel we can perform in this industry."