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by Jay Traugott
Suzuki's US market departure causes speculation fellow Japanese automaker Mitsubishi could follow suit.
This past week Suzuki announced it was leaving the US automotive market due to slow sales and a lack of product. Simply put, it was no longer competitive against not only other Asian automakers, but American ones too. That leaves Toyota and Honda as the strongest Japanese automakers in the US and even they're facing tough competition from the likes of Hyundai and Kia. So where does all of this leave smaller Japanese automakers like Mazda and Mitsubishi?
While Mazda is apparently on track with its new SkyActiv technology and growing relations with Fiat, Mitsubishi is left with no large corporate partner, no truly innovative technology and no exciting product. So could Mitsubishi's US operations soon go the way of Suzuki? Apparently that's not happening anytime soon, if ever. According to a report from Automotive News, Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko stated that his company has no plans to leave the US market. Although sales were down some 29 percent last month, Masuko stated that "We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the US market. The US market is a very important market."
The disappointing sales figures can partly be attributed to the fact models such as the Eclipse, Galant and Endeavour were discontinued. But that still only leaves them with a few models: the Lancer/Lancer Evo, Outlander and Outlander Sport, and the unimpressive i-MiEV pure electric. Masuko expects sales to rebound next year thanks to the arrival of a redesigned Outlander as well as increased production of the Outlander Sport at the carmaker's Illinois plant.