By on February 4, 2011

Most foreign-based automakers see the United States as a market first and a production center second: If sales are good enough, production will follow. Mitsubishi, on the other hand, seems to be taking the opposite approach. The Japanese automaker has announced [via Automotive News [sub]] that it will replace production its weak-selling midsized offerings (Galant, Endeavor, Eclipse) at its Normal, Il factory with one model: the Outlander Sport compact crossover. The Outlander Sport (known elsewhere as RVR and ASX) is Mitsu’s newest vehicle, but the firm still envisions only abput half of Normal’s planned 50k units of production to be sold in North American markets (a safe estimate considering it’s still not outselling the Lancer). The other half will be exported to Russia, Latin America and the Middle East. That’s right, Mitsubishi is keeping its only UAW-represented workforce in order to build compact crossovers for export.

Though Mitsubishi’s bosses insist that they have no intention of leaving the US, the fact that it’s not replacing its “Project America”-platform midsized vehicles speaks volumes about the firm’s evolving approach to the US market. Rather than half-assing an America-specific lineup without the resources needed to break into our crazy-competitive C- and D-Segments, Mitsubishi seems to be going to a more global lineup. Which makes sense: as gas prices rise, Mitsu’s cheap-and-cheerful global vehicles likely won’t do much worse than the PS-Platform midsized laggards… and they don’t require unique development. According to AN [sub], the plan is as follows:

The first new arrival will be the low-volume i electric vehicle due this year. A Thailand-made global small car is scheduled to arrive in early 2013, and from 2012-15 Mitsubishi plans to bring five more models or variations: an additional electric vehicle and four plug-in hybrids.

The “i” EV will be a tiny volume player, but the forthcoming global small car could at least put Mitsu into competition for the newly-hot B-Segment. As for the rest of the vehicles, who knows? Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn has been giving Mitsu hungry looks, so alt-drivetrain cooperation could be a possibility down the road. There’s even a rumor [sub] that Mitsu will rebadge the Infiniti M as a “replacement” for its Diamante “flagship,” but who knows if that will happen (let alone whether it will be more than a JDM-only deal). Either way, Mitsu is still making a profit globally, so treating the US as a piece of the global puzzle rather than a major growth opportunity makes quite a bit of sense. And if they want to build cars here for export, well, all the better.

Pay taxes in Illinois? Mitsubishi’s 1,300 UAW-represented job there will be saved thanks to $29m of state tax credits over the next ten years.
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6 Comments on “Mitsubishi Rescues American Production… For Exports?...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    So are we officially a low cost labor market yet? 

  • avatar

    “So are we officially a low cost labor market yet?” Not yet, Dan, but we’re clearly on our way! Keep teaching, my friend, keep teaching.

    BTW, after looking at the photo, especially the grille, Mitsubishi kinda wants to exude Audi, but it’s turned upside-down and looks like something a dentist would spread apart in your mouth to do some serious dental work! These car designers are trying much too hard! Speaking as being at least half-Russian I think it’s hilarious for us to be building cars for Russia, but it doesn’t surprise me a bit. I don’t know how well the “Siber” is doing, but I’d like for TTAC to gather data if possible for car sales in Russia and break it down. Maybe Bertel would be willing to go over there for a vacation to do the research? My son has a 2000 Eclipse GT, bought used in ’04 and it has been an excellent car, very reliable and few repairs besides regular maintenance. That bad boy does move! Question: Why do so few of the very few Galants I see have any of their hubcaps (wheel covers)?

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi is still in business? Color me stupid but I though all those crossovers I was seeing were Audis of some sort!

  • avatar

    May be next up is Outlander or, even, Lancer ‘Made in the U.S.A.’

  • avatar

    If Mexico continues to be more unstable, the US may even see more manufacturing production come back.

    I read a recent Bloomberg Business Week magazine that said the US government is touting Afghanistan as a future business/manufacturing destination.      Sheesh, our own government selling out the US worker after all they have been through.  

    Hopefully a weak dollar, a productive skilled work force, and rule of law can triumph to bring in additional foreign investment instead of chasing the lowest wage.    Now let’s tell that to our own government!     

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