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Magna still calls Australia home

True blue: The successor to Mitsubishi's current Australian-made Magna will also be produced locally

Mitsubishi has announced its intention to continue manufacturing the Magna in Australia

25 Jan 2000

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia Limited today laid to rest months of speculation about its future by announcing it will manufacture the successor to the Magna and Verada locally.

However, MMAL managing director Mr Mike Quinn said the next-generation Magna was not due until the end of 2004, four years later than originally scheduled.

Mr Quinn says extensive restructuring within the company is required in the interim to ensure the organisation achieves international competitiveness.

This is crucial to the long-term viability of the manufacturing operation as the vast majority of Magnas are exported to the US, where the car is known as the Diamante.

Mitsubishi's announcement quells widespread speculation over the past 12 months that its Australian operation was under threat of closure.

It would be heartening news for Mitsubishi's employees, dealers and suppliers as well as its one million Australian owners.

The basis for the next-generation Magna still remains unclear. It was earlier speculated that Mitsubishi may use a stretched and widened Galant platform or base the new model on Hyundai's Grandeur.

Now that Mitsubishi has four years to develop the next generation Magna, it may opt to develop an all-new platform that endows the car with dynamics that will be perceived as the benchmark in its class.

Meanwhile, the current Magna will receive two major facelifts and upgrades during the remainder of its life cycle to maintain buyer interest in the model.

The Magna has won its fair share of critical acclaim - it is the current holder of the NRMA/RACV Best Family Car award - yet its sales have declined in recent times.

It notched up 25,121 sales in 1999, compared to 32,622 the previous year. The model was last upgraded in March, 1999, which indicates the next update will take place late this year or in early 2001.

The current Magna's platform dates back to 1996, which means it would be more than eight years old by the time it is phased out in 2004.

Mitsubishi says the extended lifespan merely brings the car's life cycle in line with those of the segment-leading Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

As part of the restructuring at Mitsubishi Australia, Mr Quinn will retire next month, making way for Mr Norio Takehara as the company's managing director.

Mr Quinn has had a 44-year career that began with Chrysler Australia and continued through when Mitsubishi took over the local operation in 1980.

He has been the managing director of the Mitsubishi Australia for the past 13 years.

Mr Takehara is similarly experienced, having been involved with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation for over 40 years. He was posted to Australia as the chairman of MMAL in June 1998.

He will continue to perform his duties as chairman even after taking over the position of managing director.

Mr Takehara said his first task in his new role would be to assess the current model line-up, especially concerning model changes and upgrades to the current Magna and Verada.

"As a local manufacturer, we must prepare for the future and bring to our Australian car-owners more vehicles that retain style, creativity, freshness and appeal," he said.

Mr Takehara and Mr Quinn both emphasised that the progress made with the company's restructuring program had been instrumental in gaining approval to build the next Magna in Australia.

Mitsubishi Australia axed 300 workers from its two Adelaide plants last September as the first phase of the accelerated restructuring program, which aims to streamline decision- making and reduce costs.

The voluntary redundancies reduced the company's workforce from 4700 to 4400, with production staff accounting for the vast majority of the cutbacks.

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