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DC chiefs back Mitsubishi future

Taking a stand: The Mitsubishi stand at the Tokyo motor show and (inset) Rolf Eckrodt.

The future of Mitsubishi in Australia gets a shot in the arm with executive support

Mitsubishi logo30 Oct 2001

THE future of Mitsubishi as an Australian manufacturer beyond 2005 received a shot in the arm following supportive comments by senior DaimlerChrysler executives at the Tokyo motor show last week.

Mitsubishi chief operating officer Rolf Eckrodt and executive general manager international car operations Steven Torok both said the company's two Adelaide plants had viable futures if costs continued to be trimmed and export programs developed.

"Australia is an interesting market for us," said Mr Eckrodt.

"We are a strong player over there with only a few others, but our position is under evaluation and we're looking at it as a business case.

"Of course we will try to help: if Australia is to survive, then we have to create some export potential - that's what we're checking now.

"Mitsubishi Australia has a very strong tradition as an asset for us. It has a strong shareholding and good engineers, but there's a need for changes, especially when it comes to market orientation." Mr Eckrodt also signalled the forthcoming federal election would have a positive effect on the decision, which he said could be made this year.

"We've had very fruitful discussions with the Government, including the Opposition Leader, so we can really have a clear view of what may happen. The election gives confidence and we will try and complete our business case to make a decision as soon as possible - it could be this year, or a little later," he said.

Mr Torok, a senior vice-president and member of the MMC board, has been in direct contact with the Federal Opposition and is more upbeat about Mitsubishi's Adelaide future, targeting exports as the key.

"We believe that it's difficult to sustain economies of scale in the Australian market alone so as part of an integrated manufacturing process, both globally and in partnership with DaimlerChrysler, we'll be looking for something that has export, as well as domestic, potential," he said.

Asked about specific export possibilities in the wake of continuing rumours that Australia could become a global right-hand drive supply centre if Magna/Verada/Diamante production ceased in Japan, where such large cars attract increasingly small volumes, Mr Torok said: "There are many alternatives, but I wouldn't limit the alternatives just to Diamante.

"We'd like to have a global production strategy so we can avoid a situation where major plants build only one product for only one market.

"So as we look at potential answers we're keeping in mind global sourcing.

"I don't really want to comment on our future model plans because a lot of things are under evaluation right now - most of which won't go forward, some of which probably will." Mr Torok said any right-hand drive market was a potential customer for Mitsubishi Australia.

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