MITSUBISHI CEO RESIGNS

Departure Comes as Automaker Conducts Agency Review

By Published on .

DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Finbarr O'Neill, co-chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, has resigned, according to executives close to the matter.

The automaker later today named its president and chief operating officer, Rich Gilligan, as CEO, succeeding Mr. O'Neill. Mr. Gilligan joined the automaker in late 1998 as executive vice president and chief operating of manufacturing after a 30-year career with the Ford Motor Co.

Related Stories:
MITSUBISHI PREPARES TO NARROW AD AGENCY REVIEW LIST
Plans Visits With Semifinalists the Week of Jan. 17
MITSUBISHI PUTS AD ACCOUNT UP FOR REVIEW
Incumbent Deutsch Invited to Participate
MITSUBISHI SENIOR MARKETING VP RESIGNS
Ian Beavis Cites Personal Reasons
MITSUBISHI CEASES ADS ON NETWORK TV
Marketing Chief Tells iMedia Summit of Shift to Other Media
MITSUBISHI'S NEW CEO LOOKS TO CURB SALES DECLINES
Carmaker's Youthful Ads to Now Target Consumers of All Ages

Mr. O'Neill joined Mitsubishi in September 2003 from Hyundai Motor America, where he helped turn around that brand as its president-CEO. His departure comes as Mitsubishi is in the early stages of an agency review, called for by the automaker's Japanese parent.

Mistubishi yesterday said it was preparing to narrow the list of ad agencies competing for its online, media planning, national and regional dealer creative accounts next week.

New post
Meanwhile, Reynolds and Reynolds Co., a Dayton, Ohio, software provider to auto dealers, in a release today said the 52-year-old Mr. O'Neill has joined the company as its president-CEO and will serve on its board of directors. In the release Mr. O'Neill said, "Reynolds has such a rich tradition within automotive retailing. The company's brand is strong. ... We will work hard to return Reynolds and Reynolds to its historic growth levels, while continuing to build on the company's leadership position in the market."

Herculean task
Mr. O'Neill and his management team at Mitsubishi had the virtually Herculean task of rebuilding the brand as its money-losing Japanese parent struggles mightily in its home market to renew public trust and attract new investors. Industry experts blame the brand’s global woes on mismanagement by prior leadership here and in Japan over the years.

A month ago, Ian Beavis, senior vice president for marketing, product planning and public relations, resigned. A few weeks later, Diane Hong, advertising director, resigned. At the same time, parent Mitsubishi Motors Corp. delayed the release of its latest revitalization plan as it seeks an infusion of capital.

In the U.S., the brand is readying the May launch of the redone Eclipse sedan. But monthly vehicle sales have been steadily plummeting by double-digit percentages from the prior periods.

Sales projections cut by 29%
About a month ago, Mitsubishi dramatically cut its projections by 29% for North American vehicle sales for the fiscal year ending next March 31 to 185,000 units from 264,408 in the previous fiscal year. In May, the automaker had estimated only a 14% drop domestically to 233,000 units. The parent also reported that its net loss expanded to $1.32 billion for the six months ended Sept. 30 from $722 million a year ago.

Vehicle sales are also sinking in Japan, where its executives have been arrested for allegedly hiding defects to prevent vehicle recalls for at least 25 years. None of the cars involved are sold in the U.S. DaimlerChrysler AG, which bought a 37% stake in Mitsubishi four years ago, refused to give the company more financial aid this past spring.

The automaker's new chief in Japan managed to secure a $4 billion-plus bailout from sibling companies and J.P. Morgan Chase. But Mitsubishi is burning through that cash.

In this article:
Most Popular