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Mitsubishi battles on

Import success: Triton is one of the models performing well for Mitsubishi.

McEniry looks on the bright side as imports boom - and as 380 continues to struggle

10 May 2007

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia president and chief executive Robert McEniry cannot quite bring himself to say so in as many words, but believes that his embattled company has turned the corner towards a healthy future in this country.

Mr McEniry has told GoAuto that 18 key performance indicators “with very high benchmarks” that he set his team last year had all been met or exceeded.

“I’m reluctant to say that we have turned the corner, but the results are speaking for themselves at the moment,” Mr McEniry said. “We’ve still got a couple of things to get right before we’ve got right around the corner.

“The product’s right, the attitude’s right, it’s just a matter of pushing the brand where we want to push.”

VFACTS industry sales figures for April released last week showed that Mitsubishi posted another strong month on the back of its imported vehicles. The Japanese brand claims it overall market share has “stabilised” at 6.1 per cent, following a 20 per cent increase year-to-date.

Its imported passenger vehicles are up 45 per cent YTD, and light commercials are up 29 per cent. Still, it managed just 723 sales for the Australian-built 380 last month, a result which took YTD sales down by 4.4 per cent compared to the same point last year but, according to the company, was “in line with MMAL’s 2007 forecasts and production levels”.

21 center imageMr McEniry (left) pointed to a number of positive factors for the brand: increased market volume and share last year a fresh model range good representation in high-growth market segments doubling of dealer profits in 2006 (and expectations this will continue) a dramatic increase in Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) figures over the past 12 months and quality levels at the Tonsley Park plant being the highest in the company’s history.

Mr McEniry also told GoAuto that Mitsubishi Australia could viably continue manufacturing cars in Australia at existing volumes, despite the disappointing sales for the 380.

“It’s a hell of a lot easier talking to you about the company than this time last year, when we were embarking on a rather dramatic raft of changes to the company in a whole lot of areas that have really paid dividends,” Mr McEniry said.

“There was a mammoth amount of change we effectively did in nine months and, despite all the speculation and rumours, we managed through it pretty darn well.

“It was a year of right-sizing the organisation, re-engineering the organisation and setting it on a foundation to move forward … so to come out with an increased (overall) market share, an exciting range of products and a very enthusiastic employee group was really quite remarkable in some ways.

“We did have a plan, we were resolute in following that plan, we were not going to be distracted from it by any external commentary and I think that paid dividends.

“Our product range is basically all-new and, importantly, we are in the key growth segments and we’ve got very competitive product in all those key growth segments.”

Mitsubishi has still to decide what to do with the high-performance Ralliart brand, having recently dumped Alan Heaphy’s Melbourne-based Team Mitsubishi Ralliart rally operation, but is engaged in talks with Prodrive and other potential contractors.

Mr McEniry said they have also looked at in-house production of special vehicles like the Heaphy-built supercharged TMR 380 sport sedan concept that was shown at last year’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

A decision on the Ralliart operation will be made before the end of this year.

Although 380 sales have clearly been disappointing, Mr McEniry said that at least Mitsubishi has a very balanced portfolio and is not relying on one product like some of its rivals are.

The key new product launch this year will be the all-new Lancer range in the third quarter.

The 380 will also be freshened up in the third quarter, an automatic transmission will be added to the Triton 4x4, as will a diesel to the Triton 4x2, and Pajero and Outlander will be updated before the end of the year.

“We’ve still got lots to do. I’m not suggesting we are anywhere near finishing the job. We’ve really just started the journey,” he said. “We’re just little Aussie battlers trying to have a go in the hard world out there.”

Read more:

April VFACTS: FCAI tips magic million

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