LOS ANGELES — Mitsubishi Motors North America will move its U.S. headquarters from Southern California to Franklin, Tenn., by the end of the year, joining the North American arm of alliance partner and controlling shareholder Nissan Motor Co. in the Nashville suburb.
Mitsubishi expects to begin its move from Cypress, Calif., to Franklin in August and to initially be housed in temporary office space as it looks for a permanent location, the company said in a statement Tuesday. The Japanese automaker has been in Southern California since the mid-1980s, first in Fountain Valley and then in nearby Cypress, where it has about 200 workers.
"The move is part of an ongoing plan to reinvent every aspect of Mitsubishi Motors in the U.S., from corporate leadership to dealer partners to every touch-point in a customer's relationship with their vehicle, and will sharpen the company's focus on future growth and innovation," the company said.
"MMNA's move highlights efforts taken across the entire global landscape of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to bring the companies closer together in key areas including procurement, development and cost efficiencies," it added.
Nearly all corporate departments will relocate — sales and marketing, product planning, dealer operations — but parts distribution will remain in California. Mitsubishi is working with Nissan to house its parts center in a newly constructed, shared facility in Riverside, Calif. About 25 people representing the western region will also stay behind.
The move does not affect other Mitsubishi Motors facilities in the U.S., such as r&d operations in Ann Arbor, Mich., and government relations in Washington.
Fred Diaz, CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, said the move goes hand in hand with the brand's planned rebirth in the U.S.: "As we drive toward the future, this is the perfect time for us to move to a new home. While we say farewell to the Golden State with a heavy heart, we're excited to say hello to Music City."
Mitsubishi's decision is yet another loss for Southern California, referred to in 2000 as "Motown West" for the concentration of automotive brands that based their U.S. operations there. Since then, the brands under Ford's former Premier Automotive Group — Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo — moved back east, Suzuki stopped selling cars in the U.S. and Toyota moved to a huge campus in Plano, Texas.
In addition, Nissan moved its North American headquarters from Los Angeles to Nashville in 2006, leaving behind about 60 percent of its 1,300 staffers and executives at the time. Mitsubishi said one reason it chose Franklin was the area's high-tech community, along with cost savings, a business-friendly work environment and proximity to Nissan.
Left in California are Honda, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia. However, fledgling Chinese brands such as GAC, Karma and Zotye have set up shop in the region.
Mitsubishi's U.S. revival is accelerating, with sales gains for the last six years straight, topping 100,000 vehicles in both 2017 and 2018. Sales through the first five months of this year are up 4.6 percent compared with the same period last year.