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Mitsubishi hopes new models spur U.S. sales

Automotive News reports on Mitsubishi's product plans for the U.S. market.

Automotive News

TOKYO--Mitsubishi aims to revive its ailing U.S. operations by introducing a new SUV and a small car by 2012 and by reviewing the dealership network to weed out weak players.

"The revitalization of the American business is very important," Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko told Automotive News at the Tokyo Motor Show. "We're reviewing many things."

Mitsubishi has been hard hit by the U.S. downturn. Its sales collapsed 47 percent in the first nine months of the year. The overall U.S. market fell 27 percent.

Masuko said the U.S. game plan has these elements:

--Launching new models.

--Strengthening the sales network.

--Reaffirming the company's commitment to stay in the market.

Mitsubishi will make good on the first goal next fall, with the introduction of the Outlander Sport, a small SUV. The vehicle is based on the Concept cX, first shown at the Frankfurt auto show in 2007. It will be a global model based on the platform of the Lancer sedan.

It will have a 2-liter four-cylinder engine and come in front- and all-wheel-drive packages, John Koenig, executive vice president for operations at Mitsubishi Motors North America, told Automotive News.

Mitsubishi will follow that with a global small car in 2012. That car will be smaller than the Colt, which is sold in Japan and Europe, and will have a 1.0- to 1.3-liter gasoline engine. A plug-in hybrid version and all-electric version of the global small car are scheduled for 2013. Mitsubishi is studying which of those would best suit the United States.

The rollout of the new cars is part of Mitsubishi's push to reposition its brand as a maker of fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars and electric and hybrid vehicles.

Masuko also will review Mitsubishi's 400-plus U.S. dealers, looking to shed troubled stores and add stronger ones cut loose by distressed rivals such as General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group.

Mitsubishi has already signed up one former Saturn dealer in Louisiana.

"The environment for the dealers in the United States is changing," Masuko said. "There are some dealers who have gotten weaker, and some who have growth potential. So we'd like to review each and every dealer."

(Source: Automotive News)