This article by John O’Dell of The Los Angeles Times appeared in the Sunday December 3 edition. AutoPacific‘s George Peterson is attributed extensively in the article.
Mitsubishi hopes new Lancer gets it back on track
The redesigned compact is seen as crucial to the struggling automaker’s U.S. recovery efforts.
By John O’Dell, Times Staff Writer
December 3, 2006
Mitsubishi Motors Corp., once a shooting star among the smaller Japanese automakers fighting for space in the U.S. market, needs a hit. Badly.
The company, beset by problems here and at home, has seen its U.S. sales plummet 64% from their high in 2002.
Renowned at one time for cutting-edge design and technology, Mitsubishi was among the first automakers to use four-wheel steering and to offer a convertible sports car with a retractable hard top.
It pioneered the direct-injection gasoline engine, for more power with increased fuel economy; and active “yaw,” or body-roll, controls that keep a vehicle from pitching uncomfortably from side to side on curves.
These days the company is better known for cheap loans and woeful resale values.
“It’s a shame, because they’ve always made good cars,” said industry analyst George Peterson, president of market research firm AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin
. “But they lost their image.”
Editors NOTE: Since this was written, Dave Schembri has landed at Roger Penski’s smart operations in the USA. Schembri had been head of smart at Mercedes-Benz USA prior to joining MMNA. Wayne Killen joined Hyundai Motor America as Director of Product Planning in early 2007.
Mitsubishi Motors North America announced on Friday, February 17, that Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Schembri and Vice President of Marketing Wayne Killen had resigned from the Company. In a statement by Mitsubishi, “Both left to pursue other opportunities.”
The former Mitsubishi marketing duo joined Mitsubishi at a time when sales were off drastically from prior years and no rebound in sight. Just stabilizing losses and rebuilding from a lower base of sales may have been considered a success, but even after a year with Dave Schembri running Sales and Marketing the Titanic couldn’t be turned.
Schembri joined Mitsubishi Motors North America in February 2005 after serving as the chief of the Maybach brand at Mercedes-Benz USA and then head of its still-born smart division. With the demise of smart’s efforts in the USA shortly following the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Schembri moved westward to Mitsubishi headquarters in Cypress, California.
Wayne Killen, brand manager for the ill-advised Maybach brand at MBUSA joined Schembri at Mitsubishi in August 2005 as Vice President of Marketing. Working for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America early in his career (1987 – 1989), Killen had most recently spent ten years at Mercedes-Benz USA. At MMNA, Killen was responsible for advertising, brand experience marketing, product and marketing public relations and product strategy.
During their tenure at MMNA, Schembri and Killen launched the 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Mitsubishi Raider pickup and had just completed the public introduction of the soon-on-sale Eclipse Spyder.
The duties of Schembri and Killen are beeing handled by Hiroshi Harunari. Harunari has bee co-Chief Operating Officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America since January 2006. Rich Gilligan, former head of Mitsubishi’s manufacturing operations in Normal Illinois continues as the other co-COO.
These moves at Mitsubishi demonstrate the level of exposure senior managers take at some import-brand distributors. Last Fall, Peter Butterfield was ousted from his position as head of Kia Motors of America. In January, after a very confident presentation at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Cosmai fell at Hyundai Motor America. While Schembri and Killen had not yet been able to stabilize MMNA’s fortunes in the USA, Butterfield and Cosmai were managing companies that have healthy growth and prospects.