The end of Mitsubishi assembly in Europe is nigh

The end of Mitsubishi assembly in Europe is nigh

A snowy, freezing cold week at just-auto towers and surrounding towns, including mine, with a mixed forecast for next week that somewhat reflects the very mixed bag of news this week.

The bad news was Mitsubishi finally throwing in the manufacturing towel in Europe; it simply cannot get enough volume for its relatively high cost Netherlands plant so, soon, all we can buy over here will come either from Japan or Thailand. I've just been reading an article on a Chinese website which said the JVs there haven't been doing too well, either, with the locally-produced Lancer being creamed by rivals such as the Focus so it seems there is plenty to occupy minds in Tokyo for some time yet. The JV plant in Kaluga, Russia, run with PSA, seems to be doing OK, however. 

It's a shame. Mitsubishi really isn't big enough for today's battle-scarred auto landscape and has long wangled additional volume with products rebadged for Chrysler and, latterly PSA. It's made (well) some nice vehicles over the years - I always liked the 80s and 90s models, especially with creamy-smooth V6s, in my consumer auto writing days - and there's nowt much wrong with the current Colt, ASX (apart from the lack of automatic transmission to suit me), Outlander (and its PSA clones) or the Thai light truck lines.

But the full-size Pajero SUV is pensionable and there are so many rivals who've sorted product lines and production costs in various countries so Mitsubishi needs a smash hit, maybe some unique technology and some really good production cost accountants.

At least, this week's new Outlander preview, with accompanying news of forthcoming plug-in technology leveraging MMC's EV experience, looks nice and a welcome step in the right direction.

With Geneva's press days now just weeks away, the product launch hype has stepped up a notch and we've had news of Honda's new Euro-centric diesel engine, more on the hybrid Yaris (tweeted rather than emailed by Toyota, as you do), a very nice looking Chevy Cruze wagon (more on that here) and door details for one model I really want a close look at, Ford's clever little B-Max, as I think it would suit Roberts Family Inc after Dave the mechanic finally shows up at my door one annual MoT test day soon, wearing a black hat, and pronounces The Ancient Automatic Sedan is terminally ill and must be replaced.

We've also seen some good full 2011/fiscal Q3 results this week, notably from Daimler, and there was also Faurecia and a Nissan less hit by natural disasters and that pesky yen than some of its Japanese compatriots.

But there are clouds - again - over GM Europe and the Opel/Vauxhall brands. IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart thought the unthinkable this week, suggesting GM could maybe cut the German Patient loose this time and let Chevrolet fill the gap.

Finally, we had our first webinar on Thursday afternoon, our time, and editor Dave Leggett and guest were well pleased with the 200-plus or so of you who turned out, so to speak, and tossed in a lot more questions than expected.

Action replay here.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor,

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