Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which has been fending off a negative US performance even though the overall market is very healthy, declined to comment on a recent report it was closing auto production in the United States.
The automaker is also facing an expiring union contract at its sole North American plant, which intensified speculation about the plans to end automotive production in the country. Japan’s Nikkei news service reported the company was enacting a strategic business shift towards the surging Asian market and the cease of production at its manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois, would be an integral part. The company declined to comment on the report, which stated Mitsubishi – one of the smallest Japanese carmakers – was looking for a bidder for the factory, which was inaugurated back in 1988 as a joint venture between the company and its then-partner, Chrysler. The report further stated Mitsubishi had decided to start negotiations with labor officials to keep the 918 workers employed, who are represented by the United Auto Workers union.
“We haven’t heard anything,” commented Kyle Young, vice president of UAW Local 2488, representing the factory workers. “We’re supposed to have negotiations coming up” as the current agreement will expire in August. Before that, “it’s business as usual here – we’re pumping out cars.” The plant in Normal is the only Japanese-owned factory in the United States to have representation from the UAW union. Mitsubishi said production at the plant totaled 69,178 units last year, with the location in charge of manufacturing the Outlander Sport utility vehicle.