Los Angeles Times

Mitsubishi to close its only U.S. factory


Mitsubishi Motors confirmed that it plans to stop production at its only U.S. factory and sell the plant in central Illinois that has more than 1,200 workers.

The Japanese automaker reviewed its global supply chain and decided it was necessary to end production at the plant and find a buyer, said Dan Irvin, the company’s North American spokesman. The announceme­nt Friday came after Japanese media reported the automaker had decided to end production in the U.S. to focus on Asian markets.

Annual production at the plant, which makes the Outlander SUV, has fallen to 64,000 vehicles from more than 200,000 in 2002. The company sold only 82,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year — less than 1% of the total market.

Japan’s leading business newspaper, the Nikkei, reported that Mitsubishi would be the first major Japanese automaker to end production in both the U.S. and Europe. The company has built a plant in Thailand, bought one from Ford in the Philippine­s and is building one in Indonesia.

The plant is the only Japanese-owned auto factory with UAW representa­tion.

One industry analyst said factors such as the location of the plant and its proximity to a network of suppliers for the Detroit automobile industry could make it attractive to another automaker. But Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, also said that given Mitsubishi’s financial straits over the past decade, he doubts the company has invested much in technology to bring the plant up to date.

Still, “it is a foundation, a footprint, and there is already a process in place to ship cars from [the plant] and components to it,” he said, adding that another company might do as electric car maker Tesla Motors did a few years ago when it retooled a closed plant in Fremont, Calif.

“They had to basically start from scratch, and now it is a very vibrant plant,” he said.

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