Mitsubishi Australia returned to profit in 2001, reporting net income of $A16.1 million, compared with a $A186.4 million loss in 2000.

The company said this was due to an almost two-thirds increase in exports as well as reduced costs.

Sales rose by $A10 million to $A2.6 billion in 2001 while export sales were up 60 percent to 19,215 units helped by new Middle East orders and steady US sales of the Diamante.

Exports of vehicles, parts and accessories, engineering services, engine components and stampings accounted for almost $A700 million in revenue.

Mitsubishi Australia plans to export a record 22,000 cars this year, with 17,000 going to the US and will produce 48,000 Magna/Diamante cars locally this year.

Mitsubishi Australia chief Tom Phillips told Bloomberg News that the domestic sales target for this year of 67,000 was “far too low considering” record Australian car sales in January and February.

“We actually achieved our sales targets but our market share went down, so obviously we have got to raise our sights,” Phillips told Bloomberg. “We were short of some stock because we didn’t pick the record markets so it will take a little while to turn around.”

Mitsubishi Australia wants to raise its current eight percent market share to 9 percent in a year, Phillips added.

Mitsubishi Japan is expected to decide on the future of its Australian manufacturing arm by the end of April.

This week, at the Geneva motor show, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation COO Rolf Eckrodt indicated that ongoing discussions with Federal and a newly elected South Australian Labour government had been “positive” but would not put a figure on the size of the assistance “package” sought to help with the investment required for a new Magna model planned for 2005.

This week in Australia, Phillips has been denying media reports MMAL seeks $A140 million from the governments, saying the figure is not that high.