NORMAL — The growing global appeal of SUVs of all sizes is benefiting Mitsubishi Motors North America.
For the past 2½ years, the Normal manufacturing plant has built the Outlander Sport crossover SUV and more than half of those vehicles are exported to countries around the world.
“This was designed to happen” said Dan Irvin, general manager of corporate communications for MMNA. “The Outlander Sport was a global model … It’s built and designed to appeal to those markets.”
The plant produced 66,822 Outlander Sports in 2014. Of those, 37,802, or 56.5 percent, were exported to other countries.
The volume is similar to 2013, when the plant built 67,362 vehicles and exported 39,149, or 58 percent. Prior to that, the plant produced the Galant, Eclipse, Spyder and Endeavor SUV and exports were far fewer.
For example, in 2010 only 27 percent of the vehicles produced at the plant were exported.
The five-passenger Outlander Sport was exported to 27 countries in 2014. The top destination was Russia, which receives about 60 percent of the plant’s exports. After Russia, the most popular destinations, in order, are Canada, Mexico and Persian Gulf countries, Irvin said.
Recent new markets include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru, he added.
Modifications are made to the model, in accordance with each country’s regulations, Irvin noted, mentioning different sizes and styles of wheels and different needs for air bags as examples.
And because Russia has both economic and geopolitical problems right now, MMNA is keeping a close eye on the situation there, Irvin said.
“It’s something we and (parent company) MMC (Mitsubishi Motors Corp.) have to watch closely,” he said. “We are as concerned as everyone else about what’s going on. We have to take a wait and see attitude.”
Overall, MMNA reported 2014 U.S. sales of 77,643. The Outlander Sport was the company’s top-selling vehicle, with 31,054 sales, or about 40 percent of all sales.