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Full-scale Vietnamese production in sight for Mitsubishi

Automaker targets upstream processes to hone edge in Southeast Asia

Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko reveals the redesigned Triton pickup truck in Bangkok on Nov. 9. (Photo by Hiroshi Kotani)

BANGKOK -- Mitsubishi Motors looks to expand beyond simple vehicle assembly in Vietnam and move to full-scale local production, including procuring parts from within the country, as the Japanese automaker commits to enhancing its already considerable presence in Southeast Asia.

"To be a true winner, we must develop production and exports to certain levels in each country," CEO Osamu Masuko said Friday during his trip to Thailand for the unveiling of the redesigned Triton pickup truck.

The automaker operates an assembly plant in Vietnam jointly with trading house Mitsubishi Corp. But the Vietnamese operations will not simply be limited to assembling modules in a "knock-down kit" production method, Masuko said. Sourcing more materials locally would let the company handle more upstream processes for components.

Southeast Asia serves as a stronghold for Mitsubishi Motors, accounting for one-fifth of the group's revenue and sales volume in fiscal 2017. Revenue from the region jumped 45% for the year to 506.2 billion yen ($4.45 billion) while unit sales grew 33% to 275,000.

The Triton pickup and Mirage compact have sold briskly in Southeast Asia, and the truck accounts for 15% of Mitsubishi Motors' global unit sales. The automaker builds the Triton in Thailand and ships it to 150 markets. Masuko came to Bangkok to announce the model's first full redesign in four years, an upgrade that includes improved safety features.

The Xpander minivan, a seven-seater with the appearance of a sport utility vehicle, has been hugely popular as well. The model is produced in Indonesia, and its orders have far surpassed company expectations.

The automaker aims to lift regional unit sales to 310,000 by fiscal 2019. In Thailand, where the government is promoting electrified vehicles, Mitsubishi Motors plans to begin production of plug-in hybrids as early as 2020. The company will file this year for approval with the government.

Mitsubishi Motors leads Southeast Asian business development under its three-way alliance with Nissan Motor and French automaker Renault.

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