The European operations of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation have reported an operating profit of €180 million for fiscal year 2003 (April 1-March 31), compared to a loss of €174 million in 2002.

In a depressed European new car market (down 1.3% to 14,217,912 units), Mitsubishi Motors Europe B.V. (MME ) sold 207,939 units in calendar year 2003, an increase of 2.4% over 2002 in the 36 countries it covers. For the fiscal year, this translates to 213,595 units (+ 6.97%).

In a statement, MME said its profit, “achieved under severe market conditions in Europe”, signalled the completion of the first phase of its turnaround, in less than three years.

The FY 2003 results included the first European sales increase since 1999, a return to profitability a year ahead of schedule and, significantly, Mitsubishi’s first profit in the region since the start of European operations in 1974.

The company will launch 10 new models between FY2004 and FY2007.

During fiscal year 2003, Mitsubishi’s independent UK importer, The Colt Car Company, posted what MME called “exceptional” 2003 sales results with an all-time record of 31,477 units compared with 26,289 in 2002, an increase of 19.7 %.

France also reported a best-ever result (11,002 units vs. 10,314, up 6.7 %).

Now covering the full Russia territory – from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean – MME more than doubled its volume in 2003 (17,695 units vs. 8,166 units, up 116,7 %), finishing second among the Japanese brands and fifth of all imported car brands.

During the year the Outlander (Airtrek) and new Lancer were launched, the first new products introduced in Europe since 2000. Outlander sales were well above the 8,000 unit target (10,284 ), while 8,000 new Lancers were sold.

The L200 pickup truck, imported from Thailand, claimed leadership of its market segment (41,079 units, down 0.3 %) and the NedCar-built Carisma increased sales 4.3% to 31,771 units.

Restructuring at NedCar in Holland has seen staff reduced 38%, material costs cut 9% and productivity boosted 22 % since 2000.

Pre-production of the Mitsubishi Colt (due on sale in September) has started, together with the smart forfour with which it shares 60% of components by value.

Devised to develop and build engines for both cars, the MDC Power GmbH joint venture between Mitsubishi Motors Corporation and DaimlerChrysler started production in December at its plant in Kölleda (Germany).

Apart from the all-new Colt, product launches planned for 2004 include the Grandis (full-size MPV or minivan), Lancer Evolution VIII (sports sedan), and a turbocharged petrol version of the Outlander.