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Phillips in Mitsubishi rescue mission

Jet set: Tom Phillips is eager to present a business case to Mitsubishi headquarters in Japan.

MMAL boss will pitch business case to new boss within weeks

Mitsubishi logo5 May 2004

MITSUBISHI Australia boss Tom Phillips expects to jet to Japan within weeks to present the business case for continued local manufacturing by the beleaguered Japanese company.

It will be Mr Phillips’ first chance to meet with new Mitsubishi Motors chairman, president and CEO Yoichiro Okazaki, who was confirmed as the replacement for Rolf Eckrodt at an extraordinary shareholders meeting on April 30.

Mr Phillips will fly north with more confidence that Mitsubishi will continue its Australian operations now that controlling shareholder DaimlerChrysler has pulled the pin on its massive investment, said to be around $US6 billion or more.

"I’ll be doing whatever I can do, whatever it takes," Mr Phillips said. "We still have a good business case and we will obviously have to present that.

"The new people don’t know us and we don’t know them. They will be relying on second and third-hand explanations, so we want to present who we are, what we are and what we think we can do."Mitsubishi Australia is currently developing an all-new Magna replacement for 2005 introduction, but also needs to secure a second model line to guarantee long term viability.

Japanese media reports indicate that the DCX plan would have included shutting down both Mitsubishi plants in Adelaide. But Mr Okazaki has already been reported as putting off any plans to close Adelaide or any other plants.

"The DaimlerChrysler revival plan was really going to town on most things and I think the Japanese are taking the right approach, so I am confident about building the new car in 2005," Mr Phillips said.

The new revitalisation plan being developed – with the backing of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Corporation and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi – by a 40-strong team under Mr Okazaki’s leadership will be announced at the end of May and is expected to commit around $US2.5 billion.

Much of that money is expected to be directed toward the final development and production of a new generation Triton light commercial, heavily revised Pajero and a new model that will replace both Challenger and Outlander. All are due out in 2006/07.

Mr Phillips said he was not certain of exactly when he would be in Japan, but intended to be back before the media launch of the Grandis people-mover on May 24-25 in Sydney, which he plans to intend.

Mr Phillips’ trip will not coincide with a visit by Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and South Australian Deputy Premier Kevin Foley to Mitsubishi scheduled for May 10, but now tipped to be delayed.

Mitsubishi Motors has an accumulated debt of about $US10 billion and this year is expected to report a loss of more than $US900 million, the result of disastrous ‘Triple 0’ loans in the US.

DaimlerChrysler ousts Bernhard

RISING star Wolfgang Bernhard appears to have paid the price at board level for DCX chief executive Juergen Schrempp’s apparently failed plan to inject more funding into Mitsubishi Motors.

At a supervisory board meeting of the company last Thursday, his appointment to take over from Juergen Hubbert at Mercedes-Benz was rescinded. Mr Bernhard, who was chief operating officer at Chrysler Group, is now widely expected to leave DCX.

Before the meeting, Mr Schrempp had been tipped to be sacked or resign in the wake of the Mitsubishi fracas. But he was reconfirmed in his position.

Some media speculate that Mr Schrempp agreed to sacrifice the aggressive Mr Bernhard to more conservative board elements to save his own job.

Mr Bernhard had voted against Mr Schrempp’s revitalisation plan.

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