The make-or-break Mitsubishi 380 got the worst possible christening present yesterday when the Australian subsidiary’s chief quit unexpectedly, the Herald Sun newspaper reports.

CEO Tom Phillips has fronted the whole build-up to the 380’s introduction, which begins later today with a press preview at Crown Casino, but yesterday confirmed the open secret that he is stepping down from the top job at Mitsubishi Motors Australia, the report said.

The newspaper noted that Phillips had starred in a massive television campaign intended to restore confidence in Mitsubishi and launch the 380, and has had to battle hard in Japan for the $600 million needed to put the car into Australian showrooms.

The one-time Toyota executive was head-hunted to one of the four top jobs in Australian motoring but never expected to have the problems which the company has suffered since he joined in 2000, the report added.

There have been huge losses, job cuts and ongoing speculation about a possible end to local manufacturing, as well as dramas at head office in Tokyo.

Phillips battled through all the problems but is now drained and will leave the company on October 31, with former Holden and Saab executive Rob McEniry joining as his replacement in Adelaide.

“I feel it’s the right time to move on to a new challenge,” Phillips said yesterday.

He will be retained by Mitsubishi Motors as a special adviser but plans to pursue other business interests.

For more on Mitsubishi in Australia:
Australian auto industry eyes all on Mitsubishi