TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is studying whether to sell a small, gasoline-sipping car in the United States.
If projections are favorable, the car in the so-called B segment could be assembled at the company's plant in Normal, Ill.
Mitsubishi believes that more Americans may shift to smaller cars because of rising gasoline prices. Osamu Masuko, president of Mitsubishi Motors, does not want to cede that growing market to the likes of Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Chevrolet.
"We have to consider the possibility of bringing a B car to the United States if we determine that the U.S. customers are going in that direction," he told Automotive News at the Tokyo Motor Show last week.
He said a likely candidate could be the small Colt hatchback that is sold in Japan. But he said it might be too costly to modify the Japanese vehicle to meet U.S. regulations.
He said if the company determines that it could sell from 50,000 to 70,000 units here, he could make a business case to produce the vehicle at Normal.
That would be welcome news for the Normal plant, which produces only one hot vehicle, the Eclipse coupe. The plant's Endeavor SUV and Galant sedan are underperforming, and the Eclipse Spyder is being redesigned and won't go on sale until next spring.
But Masuko isn't making any promises. "We want to confirm that the market in the U.S. is changing," he said. "Up until now, small cars have not been big in the United States. But I think there may be a change in the structure in the U.S."
Mitsubishi's smallest car in the United States is the Lancer sedan, which has a base sticker of $15,174, including the destination charge.
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