TOKYO - Mitsubishi Motors may expand its NedCar plant in the Netherlands to build replacements for the Carisma and Space Star.
But the successors to the two NedCar-built models could be produced at a DaimlerChrysler plant in Europe instead, said Mitsubishi Chief Operating Officer Rolf Eckrodt.
'The Space Star and Carisma successors will continue to be built in Europe,' said Eckrodt. 'But where they will be built is open. We could use existing capacity within the [DaimlerChrysler] family. We could also extend NedCar.'
He said there are no plans to build a new plant in Europe.
Mitsubishi plans to convert NedCar to production of a new small car - the so-called 'Z-car.' Eckrodt said he is '99 percent sure' that the car will be produced at the plant in Born, starting in 2004 as scheduled. But he added: 'we are not satisfied with the productivity at NedCar and so we have formed a strong task force to look at it.'
Until last year, Volvo and Mitsubishi were 50-50 partners in NedCar. But after D/C acquired a 37 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors, Volvo sold its part of NedCar to Mitsubishi.
The upper-medium Carisma and Space Star successors will have a higher level of local content than the current models, Eckrodt said. That will be achieved partly by sourcing diesel engines from a European manufacturer.
'We will not develop diesels ourselves,' he said.
Eckrodt said he wants to stop referring to the new small-car model as 'Z-car'.
'Its a Mitsubishi compact car for Europe,' he said. 'It is the successor to the Colt. When we did not replace the Colt we lost all competitiveness in the B-segment, which is absolutely essential in Europe.'
The current Colt model sold in Europe was introduced 10 years ago and was based on a 1988 model. The car has never been replaced and sales have declined steadily. Only 5,683 Colts were sold in Europe during the first nine months of this year.
The new small-car platform will also be used for a four-door Smart model to be built at NedCar.
Although the Carisma and Space Star have been disappointing sellers, both will be replaced, Eckrodt said.
'We won't leave a segment again like we did with the Colt,' he said.
The Space Star, introduced in 1997, was the first entry in Europe's compact minivan segment after the Renault Scenic. But the Space Star benefited little from its early arrival. Eckrodt said styling might have been a factor.
'In the future there will be a different design,' he said. 'It will be a little bit more successful design.'