NEW YORK -- Mitsubishi Motors North America is inviting agencies to pitch its nearly $200 million advertising account, executives familiar with the matter said. The incumbent shop, independent agency Traffic, is not expected to defend the business.
In 2008, Mitsubishi surprised the ad industry when it shifted national creative responsibilities from Omnicom Group's BBDO West to El Segundo, Calif.-based Traffic. At the time, Traffic was a brand-new shop backed by Cimarron Group.
The carmaker entrusted the account there largely due to the creative leadership of Tom Cordner, who's known in auto circles for the successful launch of Lexus automobiles while he was at Team One.
Representatives for Traffic and Mitsubishi did not return calls for comment by press time. The ad agency review is being managed by Select Resources International of Santa Monica, Calif., which also handled the review in 2008.
It has been a tough couple of years for Mitsubishi's U.S. operations, which, like many automakers, struggled to move metal during the down economy.
Mitsubishi's U.S. sales plunged 45 percent in 2009 to 53,986 vehicles after sales fell 26 percent the year before. Total industry sales declined 21 percent in 2009.
Moving into 2010, Mitsubishi is showing some positive signs. All models, including the Lancer, Outlander, Galant and Endeavor, showed an increase in sales for December compared with the prior month. The company announced December 2009 sales of 4,355, a jump of nearly 50 percent over November.
"The improvement in December sales validates our renewed strategies and tactics," said Shinichi Kurihara, president-CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, in a statement. "The input provided by our dealers' National Advisory Board has been instrumental in guiding our revised sales plans and actions, and will continue to do so as we collaborate to extend this sales momentum."