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Mitsubishi looks at ASEAN trade pact for hub in India

Economic Times, India

Mitsubishi looks at ASEAN trade pact for hub in India

2 November 2008

IANS/NEW DELHI: Mitsubishi Motors of Japan is looking forward to a free trade pact between India and the 10-nation Association of South-East Asian Nati
ons (ASEAN) to start production in the country and make it an export hub, a top official has said.

"We still do not have enough volumes to set up a manufacturing base in India," said Tetsuro Aikawa, Mitsubishi’s managing director in charge of product strategy and development, at the group’s headquarters.

"We are looking for better timing - perhaps, once the free trade agreement with ASEAN comes through, we will look for production in India," Aikawa told IANS. "Our immediate target is to achieve a minimum market share of one percent."

Mitsubishi, which launched its sports utility vehicle Outlander in India recently, has a market share of only 0.3 percent in terms of units sold in the Indian market and uses Hindustan Motors to assemble and market its cars here.

Admitting that most other global auto majors had been more aggressive than Mitsubishi in tapping the Indian market and setting up a base here, Aikawa said: "We do appreciate the evaluation of other manufacturers and we are looking at their performance."

India has already finalised its free trade pact with the ASEAN, which is expected to be formally signed later this year. The free trade agreement may not only allow the Japanese car maker to import cheaper components but also export at lower tariff.

The Mitsubishi official said the company also intended to continue its ties with Hindustan Motors that makes the iconic "Ambassador" cars. "Hindustan Motors has been delivering very high quality and we will certainly continue with our collaboration," Aikawa said.

He said Mitsubishi’s current India strategy was to introduce unique vehicles that would help to build the Mitsubishi brand in the country.

"Although we have launched several small car models in Europe and North America we are not thinking of launching them here as we are not looking at a big market immediately. Instead, we want to focus on brand building," Aikawa explained.
"That’s why we are launching at least one new model in India every year."

Mitsubishi’s next model in India, he said, will be an improved version of the Lancer even as all the models launched in India were doing well. In terms of value, the car maker’s market share would be much higher, he said, but declined to divulge figures.

Regarding vehicles run on alternative fuels, Aikawa said Mitsubishi will be launching an electric car in Japan next year. "The Indian market is not ready, but we will definitely launch it in India whenever market conditions are favourable."