Mitsubishi Motors North America is setting its sights on a return to 100,000-unit sales in a calendar year, after suffering a severe drop in volume in recent years, a top executive says.
“I'd say (we'll hit the mark) probably within three years,” John Koenig, executive vice president-MMNA, tells Ward's.
Mitsubishi sold 53,986 vehicles in the U.S. last year, 44.5% below 97,257 in 2008, Ward's data shows. Volume in 2008 fell 24.6% from 2007, which was the last year the auto maker exceeded 100,000 units, with 128,993 deliveries, for an 8.8% gain on 2006.
Mitsubishi's U.S. volume was 345,111 as recently as 2002, but sales quickly tumbled due in part to problems with a 0% financing scheme.
In an email to Ward's, former MMNA CEO Pierre Gagnon blames recalls and mismanagement for Mitsubishi's woes. Koenig blames much of Mitsubishi's 2009 loss, one of the U.S. industry's worst years, on a sharp reduction in the number of vehicles sold to daily rental companies
While the auto maker intends to continue fleet sales, it will do so in “a very small way,” he says.
Instead, Mitsubishi is focusing on building retail sales, which is hard for a low-profile brand that has found itself at death's door, both here and in Japan, in recent years.
“We've assured (our dealers) we're not leaving the North American market,” Koenig says. “That's probably their biggest fear, because they're reading about it in various journals.”
Dealers have been clamoring for Mitsubishi to get back into advertising, and this year the brand has purchased spots on network TV, as well as cable channels ESPN, HGTV and Animal Planet, Koenig says.
Dealers also have been anxious for new product, and Koenig says they have come away impressed after seeing some of what's in the pipeline.
This includes a version of the RVR compact CUV, going on sale here this fall.