By Nat Shirley
Tuesday, Nov 6th, 2012 @ 4:37 pm
 

Ailing Suzuki's decision to abandon the U.S. market has prompted speculation that Mitsubishi, which has also struggled mightily in the states in recent years, could soon follow suit. However, Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko went on record today to say that the automaker is still fully committed to its U.S. operations.

"We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the U.S. market," Masuko told Automotive News in an interview. "The U.S. market is a very important market."

Mitsubishi's U.S. sales dropped 9 percent to 3,981 units last month, while its year-to-date volume is down 29 percent to just 50,103 units. Suzuki is the only Japanese automaker with a smaller U.S. market presence than Mitsu; it moved 21,188 units (down 5 percent) through October. Overall, the U.S. market is up 14 percent so far this year.

Masuko blames the discontinuation of four core Mitsubishi models - the Galant sedan, Endeavor crossover, Eclipse coupe and Eclipse Spyder - for the automaker's sales decline this year.

While U.S. sales for the current fiscal year ending March 31 are expected to total 55,000 units, Masuko believes that volume will climb to 80,000 units for the next fiscal year thanks to a new Outlander crossover.

Mitsubishi is also planning to increase production at its factory in Normal, Illinois from 50,000 to 70,000 units next year to support demand in Latin America, Russia, and the Middle East.

But with no direct replacements planned for its discontinued volume models and the 2014 Outlander and Outlander EV the only new vehicles officially in the pipeline, Mitsubishi seems to have little potential for significant future sales growth in the U.S.