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Mitsubishi moving on

Intelligent: i-Car is a personal favourite of MMAL boss Rob McEniry.

Post-380, Mitsubishi is weathering the factory closure and going for growth

Mitsubishi logo8 May 2008

A SMOOTHER than expected transition to full-line vehicle importation, coupled with a new product avalanche in more market segments than before, are giving Mitsubishi fresh impetus as it strives for sales growth this year.

Speaking in Adelaide last week, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) president and CEO Robert McEniry admitted that he is surprised by how well the company is faring in the aftermath of the Tonsley Park factory closure in February and March.

“There was very little (strong negativity towards MMAL) – except maybe here (South Australia),” Mr McEniry revealed.

“The feedback we are getting – whether it is government or academics or business leaders – has been the exception. Mitsubishi has managed the process, looked after its employees, and I think quite frankly the image of Mitsubishi as a compassionate and responsible corporate citizen has changed markedly as a result of the enormous amount of effort we placed on that.” Mr McEniry says that looking after his workers was paramount in the reporting of MMAL’s handling of the factory closure.

“When the decision was made, we had three priorities that the whole team was asked to focus on, and that was: people, people and people.

“Anything else we were not worried about – sales levels or whatever. And I think the sales results indicate that the market has responded positively and has continued to respond positively.

 center imageLeft: Concept-cX, Evolution X and Sportback.

“Our research that we have done through either press articles or clinic... is (showing) a quite positive response. In fact, one of the results it was 99 per cent positive outcome for Mitsubishi, which is quite a remarkable result.

“And if you tract the column inches... there was a peak at announcement time and effectively 48 hours after it had gone, and similarly on the last day when... our people left us there was a peak then and then it dropped away within 24 hours.

“As tough as it was, I think Mitsubishi did fairly well.

“And our product range that we have coming this year and next year will reinforce the strength of the brand going forward.

“From what I know of (MMC – Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan) product program and the direction they’re going, Mitsubishi has a very strong passenger line-up, a very strong CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle), and a very strong light commercial and SUV range.” Besides an expansion of the popular new Triton (2.5 DI-D) and Lancer (turbo, Evo, 2.4 and Sportback) ranges, MMAL is planning a new medium-sized sedan in the vein of the Concept-ZT, as well as a sub-Outlander compact SUV/hatch crossover that is hinted at by the Concept-cX. Both were integral at MMC’s stand at last year’s Tokyo motor show.

A replacement for the ageing Colt light car is also due inside the next two years, as well as diesel power for the Lancer, Outlander and other Mitsubishi passenger cars.

And the i-Car – which has been extremely well received in Japan and Europe – remains a priority for MMAL.

“I’m not going to pre-empt that one, but it’s still one of my favourites, and I badger people about it daily,” Mr McEniry emphasised.

“I’m a great fan of the car – and having driven the electric version as well, it’s a stunning car.

“We’re working through that. There are some ADR (Australian Design Rule) issues that we think we can overcome now.

“It’s a high priority product for us.

“The product range that you will see over the next two to three years – adding to what is already there, plus some of the replacements for current models – will hit just about every sweet spot in the market, and probably have a market coverage well into 90 per cent of the market place,” Mr McEniry states.

“I think that is some of the strengths you will see with Mitsubishi – particularly in the light, small and medium segment.

“You’ve seen some of the concept cars in the CUV range, and you will see some changes next year on the Outlander range... so I think we will be very well placed with cars that are in demand in the passenger segment, CUV, SUV and light commercials.

As far as the rest of 2008 is concerned, MMAL is on track to sail past last year’s total of 65,397 units – even without the 380.

“We don’t anticipate in terms of volume year-to-year dropping away at all,” Mr McEniry believes.

However, it is unlikely that Mitsubishi will topple Mazda in 2008 – which is on target to sell a record 80,000 units.

“Not this year,” Mr McEniry laments. “But as we expand the product range... I think our (future) product range will be very, very strong.

“If you look at the Lancer range, with sedan we only compete in 50 per cent of the segment. When we get the hatchback, then that will give us the opportunity to compete in the other 50 per cent that we are (currently) excluded from.

“Our real focus is to maintain the momentum this year, and then as new products come in, we’ll be able to expand the product range that we have with new variants we will grow from there.”

Read more:

Mitsubishi workers not struggling

First drive: 2WD diesel is Triton the money

Mitsubishi's last 380 rolls off the line

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