Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s investment for the production of the Outlander Sport crossover at its Normal, Ill., plant amounts to $100 million. Production will start in the summer of 2012, with the carmaker anticipating an annual output of 50,000 units, half of which will go to North America while the rest will be exported to Russia, Latin America and the Middle East.
The announcement was made by Mitsubishi Motors North America President Shinichi Kurihara, Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn and UAW President Bob King.
The Outlander Sport, which started selling in the U.S. in late October, will replace all local production of the Endeavor SUV, Galant sedan and Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder sporty cars.
These models are scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2013. In remarks made by President Osamu Masuko before the announcement, the market is “undergoing great transformation.”
He cited that production is shifting to compact SUVs as there is downsizing. He also pointed out that sports cars are getting difficult to sell as customers’ needs are changing.
He said that Mitsubishi’s introduction of the Outlander Sport ends months of uncertainty on what would be the fate of the 25-year-old Normal factory -- its only North America assembly plant. When the factory was operated jointly by Mitsubishi and Chrysler, it had an annual capacity of 240,000 vehicles.
It has been a long while since Chrysler pulled out and in 2010, Mitsubishi only produced 29,375 vehicles. Last summer, Masuko said that the Japanese carmaker cut costs, partly through job cuts, to pull down the plant's break-even point to about 70,000 units a year.