Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) managing director Tom Phillips reckons his company could export 10,000 four cylinder versions of the Adelaide-built Magna per year to the Middle East, writes Mike Duffy.

This is on top of 5,000 to 6,000 Gulf region V6 model sales virtually assured for 2002.

Company research also shows that 5,000 more four cylinder models could be sold at home in Australia if the price is right.

Phillips, just back from the Middle East, has commenced negotiations with Japanese parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) to import a multi-valve, 2.4 litre engine for the four cylinder model. He hopes to strike a deal by June so that car deliveries can start by 2002.

The Australian outpost is on target to rebound from 2000’s record loss back into profit this year – well ahead of its Japanese parent – and the additional 15,000 four cylinder cars would boost earnings markets by around $A375 million ($US198 million).

That would be a windfall contribution on top of the current revival plan to turn last year’s $A186.4 million ($US98 million) loss into $A10 million ($US5.3 million) profit this year.

The dramatic turnaround in MMAL fortunes is expected to tip the scales in its favour when MMC announces the future of the Adelaide manufacturing operation mid-year.

Phillips made only a flying visit back to his South Australia office before jetting off to North America for another export mission. He will work with Mitsubishi Motors Sales America to ensure exports of the Diamante-badged Magna can be maintained at 20,000 units a year.

The current aggressive Australian market plan is to ensure that Magna sales exceed the 30,000 required by the return-to-profit budget.

MMAL will begin shipping V6 Magnas to the Middle East in November.

Regional distributors placed orders for 1,600 vehicles after visiting Adelaide to discuss specification and pricing.

“If we can negotiate [the import of] a four cylinder engine at the right price and get proper price and specification separation between the four and the V6 models, there is good business to be done in the Middle East,” Phillips said.

“Distributors are getting very enthusiastic about selling the V6 Magna.

“They are confident they can market a total of 5,000 to 6,000 units year but they all tell me that a four cylinder Magna would outsell the V6.

“Hopefully, we can conclude negotiations with our Japanese parents within a month and get the car included in our production schedules.”

MMAL dropped four cylinder versions from the Magna range two years ago when it introduced the latest models. Rival Toyota has since sold almost two Camry fours for every V6 version delivered.

Australian Camrys – mostly four cylinder models – are the top selling car in several major Middle East markets.

Author Mike Duffy is motoring editor of The Advertiser and the Sunday Mail, Adelaide, Australia.

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