Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors announced Friday it would cease manufacturing of autos at a manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois, the United States and look for a buyer of the sole factory.
According to Normal Mayor Chris Koos, the facility would cease its activity later this year and Mitsubishi is working with the local community to seek a “strategic buyer” for the plant. Mitsubishi, one of the smallest Japanese automakers, has been hurt by a long standing decline in demand in the United States, even as the overall market has been rising to pre-recession levels. It also has an expiring union contract at the factory, the sole US facility it operates in the United States, the second largest auto market in the world. Mitsubishi issued a statement saying it would look for a new owner for the factory to remain functional and keep the jobs. The 900 hourly workers are also an interesting bunch – the only ones at a Japanese-owned US factory to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
Though last year the automaker only managed to sell a total of 77,643 autos in the US the company said it would remain on the market from now on even after the plant’s closure. The decision to cease manufacturing in the US also needs to be formally approved by its board of directors in Japan. The Normal facility, around 140 miles (220 km) southwest of Chicago, opened in 1988 and was a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler, partners at the moment.