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Indonesia-made Mitsubishi minivan hits Philippine shores

Automaker positions country as an export hub for Southeast Asia

Mitsubishi Motors positions the Xpander as a strategic model for emerging markets (Photo by Jun Suzuki).

JAKARTA -- Mitsubishi Motors began shipping its popular Xpander minivan from Indonesia to the Philippines on Wednesday, a step toward developing Indonesia into an export base for Southeast Asia.

The Japanese automaker held an inaugural export ceremony at a port facility near Jakarta attended by President Joko Widodo. He expressed optimism that Indonesia can become an export hub and highlighted the importance of investment and exports to economic growth.

Released in Indonesia last September, the Xpander is a seven-seat multipurpose vehicle that looks like an SUV. Mitsubishi had lagged behind rivals in such vehicles but the Xpander's styling and spacious cabin have won the hearts of young people and large families. Orders in Indonesia have reached 66,000 units, more than double the company's target.

Amid the unexpectedly high demand in Indonesia, Mitsubishi had put off exports to the Philippines. The model is produced at the company's sole Indonesian plant, which opened a year ago. 

Mitsubishi plans to increase monthly production of the Xpander in Indonesia by 25% to 10,000 units in July. The factory staff will be expanded by 400 to 3,400 in an effort to produce 100,000 Xpanders in fiscal 2018 and export 30,000 of those to other parts of Southeast Asia. Thailand and Vietnam are among the expected destinations. The facility will begin supplying alliance partner Nissan Motor next year.

The Indonesian plant turns out the Pajero SUV as well. Mitsubishi Motors aims to boost its Southeast Asian sales to 310,000 units in fiscal 2019, up roughly 50% from fiscal 2016.

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