TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans to kill its current lineup of U.S.-made vehicles, including the Eclipse sporty car and Endeavor crossover, over the next three years and switch to producing global vehicles at its Illinois plant, partly to target export markets.
The current nameplates will be phased out by 2014 as part of the carmaker's “Jump 2013” mid-term business plan unveiled today by President Osamu Masuko.
Mitsubishi's factory in Normal, Ill., its only U.S. assembly plant, will pick up new models based on the platform underpinning the Outlander crossover, Outlander Sport small crossover and Lancer sedan. The company plans to announce early next month what model will debut there.
Discontinuing the Eclipse, Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor and Galant sedan is an element of Mitsubishi's plan to build on the company's 3 percent U.S. sales increase last year after years of steady decline. Despite losing the four models from its local lineup, Masuko predicted U.S. sales and production would rise as the company ramps up the new vehicle family.
“Our sales in North America will increase,” Masuko said. “We'll still be selling cars brought in from Japan, and we'll be adding the global small car as well.”
Masuko did not give a sales target for the United States. Mitsubishi expects combined sales to the Japanese, North American and European markets to grow by 90,000 units over the next three years.
Masuko noted that Mitsubishi's U.S. business will also get a lift from improvement in overall market demand. Masuko added that he intends to keep Mitsubishi's U.S. retail network stable at around 400 dealerships.
Mitsubishi sold 55,683 vehicles in the United States in 2010, up 3 percent from 2009.
The new global small car, which Mitsubishi plans to initially build in Thailand, is among the cars Masuko plans to bring to the United States. Another is the Japan-made i-MiEV electric vehicle, which will be labeled “i powered by MiEV” in North America when it goes on sale late this year.
Masuko said Mitsubishi and Nissan Motor Co. are exploring the possibility of jointly developing a 1-ton pickup truck for emerging markets. That comes as Mitsubishi reaches out to competitors such as Nissan and Suzuki Motor Corp. to help it flesh out its lineup with small cars and commercial vehicles.
Masuko said the U.S. overhaul does not include plans for any rebadged vehicles.
Mitsubishi has been without a pickup in the United States since it killed the Raider in 2009. That vehicle was a rebadged Dodge Dakota.
After the new platform enters production in Illinois, Mitsubishi plans to sell half of its output in North America and the rest overseas. The goal is to leverage shipments to dollar zone regions, such as Latin America and the Middle East, where exports from Japan are less competitive.
Mitsubishi's Jump 2013 plan focuses on rolling out eight electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, as well as boosting business in emerging markets such as China, Russia and Brazil.
Global sales are seen climbing 37 percent to 1.37 million vehicles in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, from estimated worldwide volume of 1.0 million units this fiscal year.
The bulk of that increase will come from emerging markets, Mitsubishi says.
Mitsubishi also aims to double operating profit to 90 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in that period.
On the green car front, Mitsubishi said it will launch eight electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016. The rollout starts this year with a small commercial truck version of its i-MiEV. The lineup is also expected to include a plug-in hybrid SUV based on the Px-MiEV concept car shown at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.