Mitsubishi Motors Corp's US unit -- the most profitable arm of the troubled vehicle maker said it was heading for a fourth year of record profits in 2002 and planned to expand its sports utility vehicle line-up, according to Reuters.

"We're off to our fourth record year," Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America president Pierre Gagnon told Reuters.

Healthy sales of the Lancer sedan [introduced as a 2002 model] and greater brand awareness due to better marketing have provided good momentum on top of a sports utility vehicle launch in August, he told Reuters.

Reuters said that Gagnon added that combined sales for January and February had climbed some 24 percent to 57,500 vehicles.

The U.S. market is the overwhelmingly main source of income for restructuring Mitsubishi, Reuters said, with America providing about 60 billion yen ($US450 million) in operating income in the last business year when the car maker had an overall operating loss of 73.9 billion yen.

Mitsubishi, 37 percent owned by DaimlerChrysler, has come far in its U.S. restructuring efforts since 1997 but analysts told Reuters it still needs to do more.

The US unit will oversee Mitsubishi#;s launch in neighbouring Canada which was recently pulled forward by six months to next September.