Mitsubishi, like Hyundai, is not directly present as an automaker in Brazil. Instead, the Japanese produces and distributes vehicles in partnership with local group Souza Ramos, a successful auto dealer group owner and hand-crafted specialist vehicle maker.

Entrepreneur Eduardo Souza Ramos and his key associate and fellow executive, Paulo Ferraz, have so far made all the investment in the Catalão (Goiás) plant which builds Mitsubishi models while the Japanese automaker licenses the local production and provides engineering support.

October sees the arrival in Brazil of the long-waited Thailand-sourced Triton pickup, to be assembled on the same line as the older L200 pickup range, Pajero [Shogun] Sport, and TR4 (once sold as the Pajero iO or Shogun Pinin in other markets) SUVs. Up to 40,000 units of local output are planned for 2008 while $150m has been earmarked to add two more utility and light commercial models in '08 and '09.

Mitsubishi is also eyeing manufacturing the compact-medium Lancer (C-segment here in Europe - ed) in Brazil, taking the success of Honda's Civic and Toyota's Corolla - also Brazilian-assembled - into consideration. It would require a new plant and a strong capital injection, this time with help from the always-cautious Japanese.

"The plant itself is not the larger slice of the investment. Considerable expenditure is needed to prepare the plans, for in-house and field development and, most importantly, dealer network and service," Ferraz, the president of Mitsubishi Motors do Brasil, told just-auto.

Chairman and founder Ramos went further: "Currency exchange and electric power supply issues will be factors in the final decision, though we have no deadline.

"The upcoming European Union lowering of import tariffs on autos also requires assessment."

Fernando Calmon