Bullish on the Philippines, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan and its local unit are studying the local market and investment climate for expansion opportunities, officials said on Friday at the launching of its highly anticipated sub-compact model, the Mirage.
Motorization was “accelerating” in the country, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. president Osamu Masuko said, as increasing incomes boost consumer confidence to buy and maintain cars and other motorized vehicles. Further investments would be necessary to develop new models and add to the cycle of growth, he said.
Analysts said that the road to growth for vehicle manufacturers was in Asia as the recovery was either slow or stop-start in the United States, Europe and Japan.
The timing was right for the Mirage, he said, as the world market was geared toward smaller, higher-efficiency cars. This is the same trend emerging in Asia but the faster economic growth spurred Mitsubishi to launch the Mirage ahead of other markets. “After Asean countries, we will be going to Europe, Australia and then North America,” Masuko said.
The elimination of import duties on automobiles and parts under the Asean Free Trade Area scheme is also a “big help” to make the region more competitive. For the Mirage, which is manufactured in Thailand, the single market setup eased deliveries to neighboring countries like the Philippines, Masuko said.
In the Philippines, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines president and CEO Hikosaburo Shibata said the company was aiming to sell at least 500 units of the Mirage in a month. Orders have reached 2,500 units even before retail sales started during the weekend, he said.
Young workers, especially those in the high-growth BPO sector, young couples and even college-age youth who might influence car purchases for their household were the likely buyers of the Mirage, Shibata said.
In terms of sales of all its vehicles, Mitsubishi is targeting to beat this year its all-time high of 36,500 units, which was posted in 1996.
“GDP (gross domestic product, a measure of economic expansion) per capita is increasing,” Shibata said, adding that the resulting confidence among consumers to buy more products or to spend on bigger items like cars was a good sign for the company.
As the Philippine automotive market grows, fresh investments could be forthcoming in a few years, officials said. In the meantime, they said they were estimating the right timing by monitoring “signals,” including government support for the whole automotive industry. Depending on demand and the investment climate, Mitsubishi might even launch an electric vehicle, Masuko said.
Production of locally assembled units is also seen to increase, driven by the L-300 van, Adventure AUV (Asian utility vehicle) and Lancer sedan. These models are assembled at Mitsubishi’s facility in Cainta, Rizal. Overseas, Mitsubishi manufactures the Pajero and ASX in Japan, while its Thailand hosts assembly for the Montero and Strada and the Mirage.