Mitsubishi dismisses rumors on possible US withdrawal

Article by Anita Panait, on November 8, 2012

Until recently, Suzuki Motor Corp. was the bottom-selling Japanese carmaker in the United States. But Suzuki’s collapse into bankruptcy and its pullout from the US auto market turned Mitsubishi Motor Corp. into the new bottom-dweller in sales in the country.  Despite that, Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko reiterated his commitment to the US market, shrugging off any plan to withdraw from the US, like what Suzuki did.

In an interview with Automotive News, Masuko said that they have no intention of withdrawing from the US market, noting that they consider it as a very important market. Mitsubishi posted a 29-percent drop in sales in the US to 50,103 units for the first ten months of 2012. The Japanese carmaker also saw its market share shrink further to 0.4 percent in the year-to-October from 0.7 percent in the same period of 2011.

Mitsubishi dealers top the industry in terms of backlogged inventory. The carmaker’s fate is in sharp contrast with the auto industry in the US, which saw its overall sales jump 14 percent in the first 10 months of the year. Mitsubishi posted its peak sales in 2002, when it sold 345,111 units.

Suzuki is the only Japanese carmaker with lower sales than Mitsubishi, posting a 5-percent drop in sales to 21,188 units for the first 10 months of 2012. Suzuki disclosed Monday that it is withdrawing from the US auto market after nearly three decades.

The drop in Mitsubishi's sales has bolstered patchy speculation in recent years that it might pull out from the US market and instead refocus on fast-growing emerging markets where it is posting high sales.

Masuko, meanwhile, primarily attributed the decline in US sales this year to the discontinuation of four main models: the Eclipse, Eclipse Spyder, Galant sedan and Endeavor crossover. Masuko expects Mitsubishi to pick up in the US in 2013. Masuko expects the carmaker to sell around 55,000 units in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2013. He forecast sales of around 80,000 units in the following fiscal year.

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