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Struggling Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is quietly seeking a buyer for its U.S. operations, implying the company intends to leave the world’s biggest car market, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Mitsubishi Motors’ new president, Osamu Masuko, traveled to Detroit in January to begin talks with potential buyers during the North American International Auto Show, the business daily said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Masuko was accompanied by Yasushi Ando, head of Tokyo-based investment fund Phoenix Capital Co., which holds a 21.2 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors, the sources were quoted as saying.

Masuko and Ando met privately with several industry executives, including representatives from U.S. private equity fund Ripplewood Holdings LLC, the paper said.

Ripplewood did not show much interest in Mitsubishi Motors’ U.S. operations, the sources were quoted as saying.

The talks mainly focused on Mitsubishi Motors’ assembly plant in Normal, Ill., and its North American sales unit in southern California, the paper said.

If Mitsubishi Motors withdraws from the U.S. market, it would be the first major foreign automaker to do so in more than a decade, according to the daily. French auto manufacturers PSA Peugeot-Citroen SA and Renault SA, and Japanese automaker Daihatsu Motor Co. pulled out in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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