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Mitsubishi to end U.S. production and sell its Illinois factory

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On: Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 1:31PM | By: Teddy Field

Mitsubishi to end U.S. production and sell its Illinois factory

After nearly three decades, and 3 million cars, Mitsubishi has decided to end production at its factory in Normal, Illinois. The central Illinois town is about to lose nearly 1,000 jobs, and $120 million dollars of local economic revenue. Even though the plant's main product, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, is the Japanese automaker's single best-selling model...

Opened in 1988 as part of a joint venture with Chrysler, Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois plant has produced such Diamond Star favorites as the Eagle Summit, Plymouth Laser, Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Sebring, and Dodge Avenger Coupe. Once part of the Chrysler Empire, Diamond Star Motors built Pentastar-badged vehicles, that could be rebodied, then sold under the Mitsubishi brand. With Detroit picking up a huge chunk of the development tab, the Tokyo-based automaker was able to produce such rebodied hits as the Mitsubishi Mirage sedan (the old one, not the new one) and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

After assuming full ownership in 1991, Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA)continued to build Chrysler-badged vehicles until the mid-2000s. In it's heyday, the 2.4 million square foot facility was cranking out over 200,000 vehicles per year. But the loss of Chrysler business caused production to dwindle to just over 18,000 units in 2009. That figure nearly doubled in 2012, however, when they started assembling the increasingly popular Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

Today, the MMNA plant in Normal, Illinois builds around 70k copies of the Outlander Sport per year. Most of those get shipped abroad, making the American-made crossover Mitsubishi's best-selling model (even in its home market). Stateside, nearly 50,000 Americans chose to buy a Mitsubishi in the last 12 months (an increase of 25%), and 14,000 of those people drove home in an Outlander Sport. But that wasn't enough to save the factory, which they've chosen to sell in order to streamline their manufacturing operations.

Production of the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport will continue at other factories around the world. Ours will just be imported from now on. Mitsubishi says that they don't plan to stop selling cars here (good news for their 380 U.S. dealers), and they'll work closely with state officials to find a buyer for the 636-acre facility. But as the only Japanese car factory to use UAW labor, you can bet their departure could get delayed...

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