Globally acclaimed car stylist Olivier Boulay - now chief designer with Mitsubishi Motors in Japan - has provided a positive pointer to how the struggling car giant is viewing its Australian subsidiary, writes Mike Duffy.

Boulay has called a halt to development work on a new Magna/Diamante model, due to debut in 2003, to incorporate the global look he wants all future new Mitsubishi models to project.

Two key Mitsubishi Motors Australia designers were recently summoned to Japan to work under Boulay's direction on changing the character of the heavily revised car.

The designers have reported back to their Australian management that the amended design looks even more dynamic than the artist's impression released by the company two months ago.

While the success of the new Magna/Diamante is of crucial importance to the Down Under car maker and exporter, which is battling to turn last year's record loss of $A186 million ($US94 million) into a token profit this year, Boulay's attention is seen as highly significant.

The 2003 Mitsubishi Magna, restyled since this artist's impression was released in April, needs to be a success

There is a widely-held view the designer would not have called for such a late design change if an all-new replacement, due out around 2005, was not to be given the go-ahead.

This, it is believed, pre-empts a decision by DaimlerChrysler and MMC, due later this year, on Mitsubishi Motors Australia's future as a car maker.

Marketing manager Kevin Taylor said: "We are yet to see images of the revised 2003 model but our designers who have been working in MMC's Japanese studio say that all the changes are clearly for the good. We were very excited about the profile our own designers penned.

"Boulay is working on distinctive designs which are unique to all models produced by Mitsubishi around the world."

When Boulay was hired by MMC two months ago he said he wanted cars bearing the three diamond emblem to stand out in the traffic.

He added that he wanted the Magna/Diamante/Signa line-up to be "the S-class" of their mid-sized segment.

Mitsubishi Australia's managing director is looking to sell 30,000 Magnas in Australia and at least another 30,000 overseas, mostly in the United States and the Middle East.

The 2003 revision is seen as a key tool to grow the brand's standing overseas.

If the 2003 model sells in greater numbers than Phillips' business plan demands and, assuming the Australian company can, at worst, break even this year, the future of the company as a producer, rather than as a pure importer, seems assured.


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