Five-year plan: Mitsubishi plots path for growth

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Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America has aggressive growth plans for the next five years, fueled by adding all-new or freshened models, and expects to boost its ad budget substantially next year.

Pierre Gagnon, president-chief operating officer of Mitsubishi, said the automaker will launch four all-new models in the 13 months that started in October, including the 2003 model Outlander sport utility launched via a $30 million-plus blitz last month. Although Mr. Gagnon did not quantify spending, he said the company plans an aggressive TV schedule for the first quarter of 2003. He cautioned, however, that the automaker will consider pulling back some media buys if the market sinks.

Through August, Mitsubishi spent $172 million in measured media; it spent $227.5 million on measured media in calendar 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles, handles Mitsubishi.

Mr. Gagnon predicted Mitsubishi's annual North American sales will grow to 600,000 units by 2007. "We'll be in rapid-fire launch mode over the next few years," he said. Most of the North American sales are and will stay in the U.S., where Mr. Gagnon said the brand will sell 350,00 units this year. In 1998, the brand sold 190,515 units in the U.S., he said in a talk outlining his growth strategy to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit last week.

He said Mitsubishi now has the youngest buyers in the industry, with 42% of its buyers under 35 after unseating Volkswagen of America, with 41% of its buyers under 35. "Four million Gen Ys are reaching driver's age every year," he said. "They're going to be the next big demographic."

Next will be the Lancer Evolution performance compact sedan, due in February, followed by the Endeavor midsize sport utility in March. Next September, the Lancer Sportback hatchback sedan is due, followed by a freshened Diamante sedan in October and the next-generation Galant sedan in November.

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