Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will stop making vehicles in the United States this year and will close down its plant in Illinois if no buyers are found.
The automaker officially announced Monday it will cease producing the Outlander Sport at the Bloomington-Normal plant at the end of November. The sport utility vehicle is the only car it has been producing there.
The SUV will be exported from Mitsubishi Motors’ Okazaki plant in Aichi Prefecture to North America starting with the next model year. A final board decision is pending Friday.
Mitsubishi Motors’ move follows that of Suzuki Motor Corp., which exited the U.S. car market in 2012 after three decades.
While U.S. auto demand is recovering, smaller Japanese car companies are finding it difficult to get enough orders to run their plants economically.
A weaker yen makes producing in Japan for export more viable, though Mitsubishi Motors President Tetsuro Aikawa said foreign exchange rates had no bearing on the decision.
Production at the U.S. plant, which opened in 1988 as a joint venture with Chrysler Corp., fell to as low as 18,500 units a year in 2009 from a peak of 222,000 units in 2000 due to the economic crisis and the end of supplying Chrysler.
A slump in Russian demand since last year also dented output at the Illinois factory, which produced vehicles for export.
Aikawa said that the closure of the plant won’t have a big impact on its midterm U.S. sales target. If no buyers are found, the company will take appropriate measures to settle the employees’ retirements, he said.
Mitsubishi Motors will focus its production in Southeast Asia, Japan and Russia, he said.
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