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.