Mitsubishi Motors America plans to close its plant in Normal, Illinois that builds the Outlander Sport crossover, according to Nikkei and Reuters. The facility is the company’s only production location in North America, and opened in 1988.
In a statement, Mitsubishi said today that, “We have been informed it is necessary to end production and seek a strategic buyer for the Normal plant.” The company’s board will work to find a buyer for the factory. Mitsubishi told the plant’s UAW workers about the decision today.
Mitsubishi confirmed, however, that it plans to remain in the U.S. market and will not stop selling cars in North America.
This decision is reportedly part of Mitsubishi’s shift to focus more on the Asian market. The Illinois factory’s production numbers have declined in recent years, as the plant went from making high-volume models like the Galant sedan in the 1990s and early 2000s, to only making one model today, the Outlander Sport small crossover. The plant hit a high of 222,414 vehicles produced in 2000, and a low of only 18,502 vehicles produced in 2009. In 2014, 69,178 Outlander Sport vehicles rolled off the line (some of which are exported to other markets as the RVR or ASX).
Shutting down the Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America (MMMA) facility in Illinois would likely mean that the Outlander Sport would be imported to North America from one of its other production locations in Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, or China. Mitsubishi is reportedly looking for a buyer for the plant, and will begin negotiations with the plant’s 918 UAW employees to maintain employment for these workers.
The MMMA plant began in 1988 as part of the Diamond-Star Motors alliance between Mitsubishi and Chrysler. The first vehicles to be produced in Normal were the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Plymouth Laser sports cars. The plant also later produced models like the Eclipse-based Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus coupes, and the Mitsubishi Endeavor SUV.