Mitsubishi Motors links up with Italian firm

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced Jan. 28 that it will entrust production of its new small sports utility vehicle for the European market to Industrie Pininfarina SpA, an Italian automaker, beginning in 1999.The two firms signed an eight-year agreement on the project, in which a total of 20 billion yen will be invested to develop and produce 35,000 units annually, they said. Pininfarina plans to invest some 2 billion yen to expand the capacity of its plant and nearly double its annual production to some 70,000 units.Pininfarina specializes in low-volume manufacturing of high-quality vehicles. It currently produces between 35,000 and 40,000 units for such brands as Bentley, Fiat and Peugeot.Mitsubishi Chairman Hirokazu Nakamura said the firm chose Pininfarina as a business partner because of its high-quality styling and production technology, adding that Mitsubishi hopes to adopt a number of Pininfarina ideas in developing the new model. Nakamura said the firm is considering installing the new model with a new direct-injection gasoline engine.Through this project and its joint venture with Volvo Corp. of the Netherlands, Mitsubishi hopes to expand its sales in Europe to 330,000 units in 2000, half of which would be produced locally.