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We can build Hummers if we want to

Mitsubishi's Adelaide plant now state-of-the-art but sits tight for now

Mitsubishi logo29 Apr 2005

ARMED with one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most advanced manufacturing facilities, a leaner, more focussed Mitsubishi Motors Australia saysthe world is its oyster.

Speaking at the latest instalment in Mitsubishi's drip-feed release of information on October’s Magna replacement, Mitsubishi Australia boss Tom Phillips said its upgraded Tonsley Park plant in Adelaide was now capable of building any model available anywhere in the world.

"We can build Hummers if we want to," he said last week, adding that a major international manufacturing deal – like one that recently fell through – was still needed to ensure the long-term viability of Mitsubishi Australia as amanufacturer.

"When we first developed the manufacturing strategy and went looking for the equipment, we did it on the basis that we wanted to have the capability to build anything on the market anywhere – not necessarily just Mitsubishis. Wehave a huge capacity now," he said.

Mr Phillips said that while the company would remain profitable in the short term, a second vehicle line was crucial to its long-term future as a manufacturer.

However, he said Mitsubishi Australia would not be in a position to apply to its financially troubled parent company for such a project until the $600 million Magna replacement was a sales success.

"We’ll make a return from here on out. We had a $400 million write-down lastyear, we reduced our workforce by 1200 or 1300 people and our cost base is muchless now," he said.

"We’ve got to the stage where we can break even selling 30,000 cars a year as amanufacturing unit. As a company when you put that side by with imports, we’llmake money.

"(But) we’ve got to get another car. We don’t kid ourselves that we can keep running the company at 30,000 a year as a manufacturer.

"The important thing is that from a manufacturing standpoint we’re still alive, we still have the opportunity put some runs on the board and put our hand out. And who knows what happens in the next couple of years?"We’ll get this job, then put our credentials on the table and say ‘give us something else’. That’s the approach we’ll take.

"Japan hasn’t been in a state to be able to put anything on the table in recent times. I think we’ve got to launch the car, get through next year, have it meet all it's targets – whether it’s volumes or costs or profits – and then try and get something else.

"We’ve got a wish list – not a long one but I think there are a couple of opportunities as we go forward. Right now we’re not in a position to go and ask MMC for a couple of hundred million dollars to go and develop something else."Mr Phillips admitted the staged release of information on the PS41-codenamed new car, which mimics the strategy Ford Australia adopted with its BA Falcon and Territory 4WD, could harm vital sales of the current Magna/Verada, which improved enough to reinstate Mitsubishi as Australia’s fourth biggest seller in the first quarter of 2005.

But he said the groundbreaking new model’s success was even more vital.

"It will be a car that stands out from the rest," he said. "We don’t want to just beat the American car (the PS41-based Galant) – we want to do something that’s going to rejuvenate the entire large-car segment.

"I think this will be a whole new car in the segment and we’re just trying to make an impact and show people this is not just a revamped Magna or something."But Mr Phillips remains realistic about PS41’s sales potential.

"We’re not going to knock off Falcon and Commodore but the six-cylinder market needs some sort of injection," he said.

"We won’t reverse the downward trend (in large-car sales) but we’ll certainly sell enough to meet our own targets, which will be quite modest in comparison."

Fashion designer creates 'edge' to Mitsu trim

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia claims the employment of its first ever colour specialist will give this October’s Magna replacement a "fashion edge that in the past Mitsubishi has lacked".

Enlisted as a colour and trim designer in December 2002 from the United States,where she ran her own fashion clothing label, Chalisa Morrison is now MMAL’s senior colour and trim designer.

Responsible for colours and interior trim, Ms Morrison said the new car’s décor will "refresh, rejuvenate and modernise".

Revealed at the latest PS41 press briefing last week were seven new exterior colours which will be offered across three distinctly themed market segments: base (fresh casual), sports (aggressive) and luxury (elegant).

Inside, each grade’s interior will be "individually styled with unique themes".

Ms Morrison said that while the US-market PS41-based Galant sedan’s interior was"very much a cost cutting exercise at the end", the Australian PS41’s priorities will be consistency of colour matching across surfaces and materials.

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