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Although there has been some misleading information, Mitsubishi importer/assembler Grupo Souza Ramos has confirmed that new products are to be manufactured at its Catalão, State of Goiás, plant.

CEO Eduardo Souza Ramos initially was surprised by details leaked to Japan’s Nikkei newspaper which said some Mitsubishi production would be transferred to Brazil to make better use of tariff-free export agreements in the region. Production of 50,000 units yearly was reported.

In its official statement, MMC Automotores do Brasil was more prudent: “Studies are in the final phase to choose three of four models under analysis with export potential within Latin America and to the Caribbean.” One model will be confirmed inside two months and the rest by the end of the year.

Grupo Souza Ramos currently assembles the Pajero TR4 and Sport SUVs plus L200 and L200 Triton pick-up trucks and, last year, sold over 41,000 units in Brazil with 90% locally produced. It took just 1.5% of the local car and light commercials market.

The group is shouldering the full investment in the local operation, including the 11 year old plant, which will be retained. Sources have said that since the factory speciality is four-wheel drive, the full-size Pajero [aka Shogun and Montero in some markets] and the smaller Outlander SUVs would be natural candidates.

Sousa Ramos has always wanted to make cars, although he publicly denies this, but his time might have come. Looking at the current Japanese lineup, the Lancer saloon seems to be the most viable option and the rival Nissan Sentra’s relatively good sales performance (it’s imported duty-free from Mexico where it is also built for the US) is an indication of that.

Honda’s Civic and Toyota’s Corolla, both locally made, are also popular midsize saloons here.

Fernando Calmon