2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport now Made in America
Mitsubishi will stop building cars in the U.S. as it plans to sell its only American assembly plant, the company said today.
The Normal, Illinois, plant, formerly a joint manufacturing venture with Chrysler, has churned out more than 3.2 million Mitsubishi and Chrysler models since 1988. It is also the only foreign-owned plant on U.S. soil that employs a union workforce. The Japanese automaker’s contract with the UAW was up for renewal next month but negotiations had not yet begun.
“Following a review of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s global supply chain, we have been informed it is necessary to end production and seek a strategic buyer for the Normal plant,” the company said in a statement. “MMC’s Board will make a formal decision in the near future and our focus right now is to identify a buyer who would continue to operate and maintain employment—the best potential outcome for our employees and the community.”
The 2.4-million-square-foot plant, about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, has annual production capacity for 120,000 cars and exports to up to 50 countries. Last year, the plant built fewer than 70,000 cars, all of them Outlander Sport crossovers. Its best year was 2000, when the plant was at triple capacity churning out more than 222,000 cars. Over the factory’s 27-year history, workers assembled a dozen once-popular models: Eclipse (including the Spyder and Plymouth Laser/Eagle Talon twins), Mirage/Eagle Summit, Galant, Endeavor, and the two-door Dodge Avenger, Stratus, and Sebring models.
New cars await shipment to dealers at the Mitsubis
Mitsubishi, once a bastion of low-priced, sporty models, has struggled in the U.S. for a long time (that’s a painful story: read some of it here). While a recent sales uptick has helped Mitsubishi claim success, that’s only because the numbers have been so low. The company’s 49,544 units last year weren’t even a quarter of the company’s 2002 peak, when more than 345,000 Mitsus flew out the door (as pictured above at the plant that same year). Cars like the awesome 3000GT are no more (with the Lancer Evolution soon to follow), and dealers have little competitive product until the refreshed 2016 Outlander plug-in, next Lancer, and Mirage sedan reach our shores.
Despite incessant rumors, Mitsubishi says it’s not pulling a Suzuki, and considers the North American market a “priority.” Mitsubishi isn’t the only Japanese automaker to quit U.S. manufacturing. Mazda did the same, when it pulled out of its partnership in Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan, plant—where it used to build the 6—in August 2012.