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Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited

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Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited
Subsidiary
Industry Import, distribution and marketing
Founded 1 October 1980
Headquarters Tonsley Park, South Australia
Key people Masahiko Takahashi, President and CEO
Products Motor vehicles
Parent Mitsubishi Motors Corporation
Website mitsubishi-motors.com.au

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) is a fully owned subsidiary of parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan. Its Australian administrative headquarters are located at Tonsley Park (Clovelly Park, South Australia), with branch offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The company was established in 1980 and began vehicle manufacturing in that year, having taken over the facilities of Chrysler Australia. Australian production ceased in 2008 and since that time the company has been exclusively a vehicle importer. MMAL operates spare parts facilities in Adelaide and Sydney.

History

Chrysler

Construction of the vehicle assembly plant at Tonsley Park was commenced by the then owners, Chrysler Australia, in 1963. The assembly plant was opened in October 1964, with Chrysler's previous plant at Keswick then shut down and sold to a furniture retailer.

In 1968, Chrysler opened an engine manufacturing plant south of Adelaide at Lonsdale, to provide engines for the popular Chrysler Valiant models that were being produced at their Tonsley Park facility.

Mitsubishi takeover


After the acquisition by parent company Chrysler of a 15 percent interest in Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in 1971, Chrysler Australia began building Mitsubishi-designed Chrysler-branded vehicles, namely the Chrysler Valiant Galant (later Chrysler Galant), based on the 1972–1977 Mitsubishi Galant and the Chrysler Sigma, a variant of the 1977–1985 Mitsubishi Galant. In 1979 Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation each acquired a one sixth equity in Chrysler Australia and in April 1980 the two companies purchased the remaining shares in the company from the US Chrysler Corporation.[1] The company name was changed to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited in October 1980.[1] Production of the popular Sigma range of vehicles continued under the Mitsubishi name until 1987 with its eventual replacement, the Magna, having been released in 1985. Colt production, which had commenced in 1982,[2] ended in 1990, with no locally manufactured replacement.

The Magna, like its forebear the Sigma, was based on the Galant. This time, input from MMAL resulted in a wider car than the donor model a station wagon joined the line in 1987. Several model refreshes during the 1990s kept the Magna, which had expanded to include the luxury and Verada updated. However, by the early 2000s, it was clear that the Magna/Verada line, now in its third iteration had aged considerably. A facelift to the Magna/Verada line in 2003 failed to lift sales.[3] Approval for construction of a new vehicle was gained from Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, and funding was provided to re-engineer the Tonsley Park plant with the result that a new vehicle, the Mitsubishi 380, was delivered to the market in late 2005.

Sales challenges


Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's financial and legal issues weighed hard on MMAL, with public perception of the viability of the company reaching an all time low in 2004. Company research conducted in mid-2004 revealed that roughly four out of every five believed that Mitsubishi would cease production in Australia.[4]

The withdrawal of DaimlerChrysler from its involvement with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in 2004, along with the revitalisation plan that called for the closure of the Lonsdale engine plant, did not help the public's perception of MMAL as a viable company.

MMAL ended 2004 with a stockpile of approximately 4,000 unsold Magnas and Veradas.[5] To restore consumer confidence in the brand and to clear the model backlog, a series of television advertisements began airing in December 2004.[4] Centred on Mitsubishi Australia's then Chief executive officer, Tom Phillips, the advertisements promoted the introduction of an industry-first five-year/130,000 kilometre warranty. Mitsubishi reworked a slogan from former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, concluding their commercials with the tagline, "If you can find a better-built, better-backed car anywhere, then buy it".[6] The campaign successfully boosted sales and allowed the backlog to be cleared.

The Mitsubishi 380, the successor vehicle to the Magna, raised hopes for the future of MMAL when launched. Hopes stemmed from the sales success that the Magna experienced when it was launched and the fact that the Australian automobile market was growing at the time. However, the 380 sold poorly from its introduction and failed to meet expected sales targets. This resulted in a reduction in daily production volume from 180 to 50 vehicles per day, along with further reductions in the workforce.


Sales of other Mitsubishi Motors Corporation vehicles began to show improvement in Asian and European markets as new vehicles were introduced during 2006. These vehicles were also introduced into the Australian market, boosting MMAL's Australian sales into the segments that these vehicles occupied, though this did nothing to help their sales of locally manufactured product.

Cessation of local production and corporate restructure

On 5 February 2008, it was announced that MMAL would cease production of the 380 at the Tonsley Park plant, effective at the end of March 2008. The two-page statement released announced they would pursue a "full import strategy" for the Australian market due to unviable 380 sales.[7] The last Mitsubishi 380 sedan left the production line on 27 March 2008. Coinciding with the last vehicles to leave the line was the redundancy of about 500 workers, with another 430 staying for another 12 months. Those remaining decommissioned the plant and produced a stockpile of spare parts destined to last ten years.[8]

By late 2009, MMAL had removed the last piece of manufacturing equipment from the Tonsley Park assembly plant. Ownership of the plant was handed over to the Government of South Australia on 16 December 2009.[9]


At the same time, MMAL began a restructure of the remaining divisions of the company. This restructure concluded in mid-2009 and saw staff numbers reduced to around 300 through redundancy and outsourcing.

The majority of the remaining staff are involved with sales and marketing activities, though MMAL retains some capability to perform any design changes that may be required to fit Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's global products into the Australian market.

MMAL has retained its offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, with only minor changes to structure as these offices have only ever been sales based offices.

Redevelopment of plant site

The 61-hectare site is being redeveloped for retail, TAFE facilities, hi-tech manufacturing, with future residential plans.[10]

Vehicle lineup

Since the end of local 380 production, the entire vehicle range that MMAL sells is imported from Japan with the Colt, Express, Grandis, Lancer, Outlander and Pajero, and from Thailand with the Challenger and Triton.

Production and sales, 1991–2007

Year Production Sales
1991 29,074 n/a
1992 36,714 n/a
1993 52,521 n/a
1994 47,859 n/a
1995 39,728 n/a
1996 43,235 n/a
1997 58,290 n/a
1998 47,296 n/a
1999 34,883 n/a
2000 38,566 70,599
2001 43,801 65,512
2002 46,191 65,054
2003 31,470 66,979
2004 17,245 56,260
2005 18,657 55,307
2006 10,560 57,288
2007 10,230 66,410

(Sources: Fact & Figures 2008, Mitsubishi Motors website)

References

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