CEO Hiroshi Harunari will pick up more day-to-day responsibilities at Mitsubishi's North American sales organization after Rich Gilligan's retirement last week.
Gilligan, 62, brought some stability to Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. as many sales and marketing people were fleeing the company in 2004. He was drafted to become CEO from his position as president of Mitsubishi's assembly plant in Normal, Ill.
Harunari was named CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America in January. Mitsubishi has appointed many Japanese executives to replace Americans since the company fell into crisis in 2003 and 2004, when the company's ability to offer consumer credit plunged.
The arrival of Harunari and other Japanese executives appears to have ended the revolving door at the top of the troubled company.
In September 2003, U.S. sales chief Pierre Gagnon was replaced by former Hyundai Motor America executive Finbarr O'Neill. But O'Neill left Mitsubishi in January 2005 to become CEO of dealership services provider Reynolds and Reynolds Co. Gilligan was promoted to replace O'Neill.
In 2002, Mitsubishi sold 345,111 vehicles in the United States. Last year, it sold 123,995.
Coincidentally, Gilligan's retirement was announced on the same day that his handpicked head of sales and marketing, Dave Schembri, was introduced as the president of the new company that will distribute Smart cars in the United States.
Schembri, a former Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen executive, left Mitsubishi in February.
Gilligan expressed confidence in the new team at Mitsubishi.
"I'm extremely confident with Harunari-san," Gilligan told Automotive News on Wednesday, June 28, just before he announced his retirement to Mitsubishi employees. "He's one of the quickest studies I've seen."
Gilligan worked most of his 45-year automotive career in manufacturing for Ford Motor Co. He joined Mitsubishi in 1999 as COO of Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing North America in Normal, near Bloomington.
"When I came, it was going to be five years in Bloomington," Gilligan said. "Now it's been eight years with Mitsubishi." He said he and his wife probably will relocate to the Southeast to be near their children.
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