We’re run­ning, not stop­ping

Mit­subishi’s boss sees an open road ahead, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE fi­nal cur­tain is clos­ing on Mit­subishi’s Ade­laide fac­tory. Gray’s On­line has been ap­pointed to man­age the sale of plant and equip­ment. Real es­tate firm Col­liers In­ter­na­tional is work­ing through sale of the land and build­ings.

How­ever, it will be months be­fore any­thing is fi­nalised, Mit­subishi chief Rob McEniry says.

About 70 em­ploy­ees are left, mostly in the stamp­ing plant, mak­ing parts to be stock­piled.

The last 380 V6 went down the line in March, end­ing an era for the Ade­laide-based com­pany.

Dealers still hold stock but McEniry ex­pects very few cars to ap­pear in VFACTS of­fi­cial in­dus­try fig­ures from next month.

Dur­ing its three-year life, the fac­tory built 30,000 380s, which was well short of pro­jected num­bers. Buy­ers turned away from big six­cylin­der cars to more fuel-ef­fi­cient four-cylin­der mod­els.

To­day, the brand has re­bounded from the 380 melt­down and clo­sure of its Ade­laide plant.

De­spite fears buy­ers would desert the brand, McEniry says did not hap­pen. He puts that down to Mit­subishi’s strong line-up of im­ports.

‘‘We do re­search on pre-2005 and post-2005 at­ti­tudes to our prod­uct and it has grown, not re­treated,’’ he says. ‘‘We should be pretty well po­si­tioned in the hotspots of the mar­ket as we con­tinue to grow.’’

Mit­subishi also has a strong dealer base. Two new dealers will soon open in Mel­bourne and pos­si­bly an­other two in Syd­ney.

‘‘In Queens­land we have five ap­pli­cants for one dealer lo­ca­tion,’’ McEniry says.

‘‘We’re con­fi­dent we’ll con­tinue to per­form rea­son­ably well and, im­por­tantly, we’re in a good po­si­tion to ride the ups and downs.’’

McEniry is con­fi­dent the com­pany will ex­ceed its 2007 fig­ure of 65,000 sales this year. De­spite a slow­down in the past few months, he be­lieves the over­all mar­ket should re­main strong for the year.

‘‘You have to look at where the shifts are in each seg­ment,’’ he says. ‘‘Much of the de­cline in­volves large cars, not the smaller ve­hi­cles and pick­ups.

‘‘We’re well po­si­tioned in those seg­ments now, so we ac­tu­ally see some op­por­tu­nity.’’

McEniry says the ar­rival of the Lancer Sport­back next month will be ben­e­fi­cial. It is ex­pected to be avail­able in the same spec­i­fi­ca­tion as the sedan, which means en­try ES, mid-range VR and VRX mod­els.

A di­rect-in­jec­tion turbo-diesel is also tipped to join the petrol en­gines in about 18 months. A Ral­liart ver­sion is also ex­pected to go head to head with the Im­preza WRX hatch.

The Ral­liart mod­els will be pow­ered by a 177kW/343Nm 2.0-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der mated to Mit­subishi’s twin-clutch Sport Shift Trans­mis­sion.

The Lancer sedan has carved out a niche and Mit­subishi’s four-wheel drives, led by the Tri­ton and Out­lander, are forg­ing ahead.

Pow­er­ing up: Mit­subishi says it is forg­ing ahead de­spite the clo­sure of its Ade­laide man­u­fac­tur­ing plant.

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