Japan’s Mitsubishi Says Sayonara to U.S. Assembly Operations
Mitsubishi Motor Corp., one of Japan’s largest automakers, has said it will shutter its U.S. assembly operations in November and sell its under-utilized plant in Normal, Illinois.
“Following a review of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s global supply chain, we have been informed it is necessary to end production and seek a strategic buyer for the Normal plant,” Mitsubishi Motors North America said in a statement.
The company stressed, though, that it would continue to sell its cars, including current and planned models, at U.S. dealerships, adding that, “The North American market remains a priority for Mitsubishi Motors.”
The move is seen as the latest indication of Mitsubishi’s continuing focus on expanding its manufacturing operations in Asia. The company shut down its European production operation last year and has built a plant in Thailand, and bought one from Ford in the Philippines, while another is under construction in Indonesia.
The 2.4 million square-foot Illinois factory is located about 140 miles south of Chicago and produces the company’s Outlander Sport crossover vehicle.
Its 1,250 unionized employees produced just 60,000 vehicles last year, about half its capacity, according to industry sources.
The assembly plant, formerly a joint manufacturing venture with Chrysler, has produced more than 3.2 million Mitsubishi and Chrysler models since it began operations in 1988. The facility’s best year was 2000, when the plant was at triple capacity churning out more than 222,000 cars.
Mitsubishi’s U.S. vehicle sales jumped 24.9 percent in the first half of 2015 from the same period a year ago. But the company still trails far behind its Japanese rivals in the huge US auto market. In June, Mitsubishi sold 7,963 vehicles, while Toyota’s take was 209,912 and Honda sold 134,397.
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