Magnas made Down Under are proving an instant hit with buyers in the Middle East,
writes Mike Duffy.

So much so, the Australian arm of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan expects
this year’s initial shipment of 900 units to the Gulf region to grow to 6,000
vehicles next year, earning $A222 million in much-needed export dollars.

The car maker’s distributor in Kuwait has already increased January-build orders
from a modest 80 cars to 350.

Meanwhile, Toyota Australia reports record exports for October and General
Motors’ Holden says Middle East sales held up far higher than anticipated
for the month.

Mitsubishi is expecting distributors in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates,
Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Lebanon to increase orders in line with higher-than-anticipated

General Manager Export, Peter McInnes, said: "We had planned major product
release events throughout the Gulf region, but these had to be cancelled after
September 11.

"Therefore, the better-than-expected retail sales are even more promising
for the future."

To add to Mitsubishi’s strong export finish to the year, 1,400 October
sales of the (Diamante-badged) Magna in the United States set a monthly record.

Mitsubishi exports this year are expected to top 19,000 units worth $A700 million.

By the end of 2001, the company should have shipped 17,000 vehicles to the
US, 1,000 to New Zealand and 1,000 more to the Middle East and other smaller

Export revenue will go a long way towards helping Mitsubishi Australia present
a strong business case to its Japanese parent to build an additional vehicle
– or vehicles – for global markets.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Rolf Eckrodt is impressed with how Mitsubishi Australia’s managers have
accepted the challenge of turning last year’s $A186 million record loss into
a (target) profit for 2001.

Australian Managing Director Tom Phillips said: "We have some exciting
models on our wish-list for export markets.

"However, we will get the go-ahead from MMC in Japan only if we can show
success with the current car.

"Therefore, while retail numbers in the Middle East have to be viewed
as meagre, they are the building block for something much bigger."

While Magna sales in Australia are trailing the 30,000 units in the company’s
2001 business plan, exports to the US and Middle East will more than make up
the shortfall.

Toyota Australia exported over 8,200 completely built-up (CBU) vehicles in
October, the highest shipped in a month. This exceeds by 1,039 units the previous
record set last August.

Toyota Australia president Ken Asano is delighted with the performance in the
present circumstances.

Asano said: "Toyota’s export volumes are continuing to grow, achieving
a monthly shipment almost 15 percent higher than the previous record. This result
is particularly pleasing given the current international situation.

"While there is potential for exports to be affected, there has been no
impact to date and we are confident of continued strong shipments between now
and the end of the year.”

October’s exports consisted of three shipments to South Africa, four to
New Zealand and six to the Middle East.

The October result exceeds the entire yearly volume of 4,923 units Toyota exported
in 1995.

In 2000, the Australian factory exported more than 45,000 vehicles plus spare
parts worth over $A1 billion.

This year Toyota has already shipped 50,000 cars and senior executive vice
president John Conomos said export earnings would again exceed $A1 billion.

Toyota Australia ships to 33 countries and is Australia’s largest vehicle
exporter. Most exports are left-hand drive Camry sedans and wagons but the Avalon
(an older-generation model than sold in the U.S.) is sent across the Tasman
Sea to New Zealand.

The Middle East is Toyota Australia’s largest market and LHD Camrys are
shipped to eight countries in the region. In Saudi Arabia, the largest customer,
the Camry is the top selling passenger vehicle.

Around 120,000 Camrys, valued at more than $A1.2 billion, have been exported
to Saudi Arabia since 1996.

Australia’s third-largest car exporter, Holden, says that more cars were
shipped to the Middle East in October than was predicted after September 11.

However, GM Gulf region distributors cut orders by 2,000 units following the
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

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Motors Corporation Company Profile (download)

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vehicle niche markets 2000

world’s car manufacturers: A financial and operating review (download)