Mitsubishi Motors North America president and CEO Finbarr O'Neill has quit to take a similar role at dealership software provider Reynolds & Reynolds in Dayton, Ohio.

Mitsubishi Motors president of manufacturing Rich Gilligan will replace O'Neill.

A US report noted that O'Neill's resignation followed that of Ian Beavis, senior vice president of marketing and public relations, on Nov. 24 and Diane Hong, the company's advertising director, on Dec. 31.

O'Neill, who is credited with turning Hyundai America around during his 18-year stint there, had faced an uphill battle since moving to Mitsubishi in September 2003 with sales declining by double digit figures month by month. He was reportedly unhappy with a decision by head office in Japan to replace the US arm's long-serving advertising agency.

Officially, O'Neill said in a statement: "My decision to leave was a very difficult and personal one. I truly believe that Mitsubishi Motors is on the right track and will have a successful turnaround in the North American market."

During his time, the company's management focused on restructuring and streamlining business operations, eliminating risky retail financing programmes, re-establishing stronger dealer relationships, drastically cutting fleet sales to improve residual values, and rebuilding the brand.

After 30 years at Ford, starting on the assembly line, Gilligan joined Mitsubishi in December 1998 as executive vice president and COO of manufacturing and became president and COO in June 2001. During his tenure, MMNA improved from last to first in the assembly productivity rankings by Harbour and Associates.