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Mitsubishi to shutter last US plant

Not normal: The small Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, has produced more than 3.2 million cars since 1985, including the Outlander Sport.

Slowing sales and end of union deal prompt Mitsubishi to close US factory

Mitsubishi logo28 Jul 2015

MITSUBISHI Motors Corporation (MMC) has confirmed that it will cease production in the United States at the end of November 2015, with the potential loss of almost 1000 jobs.

The plant, in Normal, Illinois, produces the Outlander Sport – sold in other markets, including Australia as the ASX compact SUV – for both the domestic market and for export markets in Latin America, the Middle East and Russia.

The Japanese car-maker has confirmed that it is working with local government and county departments to try and find a buyer for the 30-year-old plant.

In a statement, MMC said that the plant’s 70,000 per annum output made it one of the smallest in the United States in terms of production scale.

“Then production order from Russia, which accounted for more than 30 per cent of the total production volume, significantly dropped since the second half of 2014, due to Russian economic crisis, which caused the production volume of MMNA (Mitsubishi Motors North America) plant to be even lower,” read the statement.

Wire reports suggest that the company’s arrangements with the dominant Union of Auto Workers – who represent more than 900 of the plant’s workers – will end in August, and will not be renewed. The plant was the last Japanese-owned facility in the US with UAW members on the floor.

The change in arrangements will allow Mitsubishi to relocate production away from the US without penalty.

Production of the left-hand-drive Outlander Sport will be shifted to the company’s Okazaki plant in Nagoya, Japan which is where Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited currently sources the ASX from.

The Normal plant, opened in 1985, has produced 3.2 million vehicles under both the Mitsubishi and Chrysler banners. Cars produced there included the ninth-generation Galant, which formed the basis of Mitsubishi Australia’s last locally made car, the 380.

It built 70,000 cars in 2014, down from a high of 222,000 in 2000.

Mitsubishi has three facilities in Thailand that build 500,000 units a year combined, an ex-Ford facility in the Philippines and a new plant under construction in Indonesia.

It pulled out of Europe in 2012, but still builds SUVs in Russia in a joint-venture with Peugeot-Citroen PSA.

MMC built 1.2 million cars worldwide in 2014, almost evenly split between Japan and its overseas facilities. It sold 68,637 cars in Australia in 2014.

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