Takashi Sonobe assumed the post of president and CEO on Nov. 1 after Katsuhiko Kawasoe resigned to take the blame for a product defect cover-up stretching back more than 20 years. Mitsubishi admitted it systematically covered up some 64,000 customer complaints, hiding evidence of repairs and recalls.
Since the scandal broke earlier this year, the company has suffered substantial setbacks, including a considerable drop in the value of its stock and a decline in car sales.
In the meantime, Germany's DaimlerChrysler renegotiated its contract with Mitsubishi, getting its 34% share of the company for 10% less. The new agreement also shaves seven years off the original 10-year prohibition on DaimlerChrysler's option to purchase unlimited equity in Mitsubishi.
Further, the agreement increased DaimlerChrysler's management involvement in Mitsubishi. Four DaimlerChrysler executives are now in top positions at the company. It has been reported that they recently started checking the company's planning and production conditions, along with customer satisfaction levels.
"Anything can happen," said Mitsubishi chief Sonobe in regards to the direction of his company's alliances with DaimlerChrysler and Volvo of Sweden.
Late last year Volvo and Mitsubishi agreed on a plan to boost the truck business for both companies. Mitsubishi would establish a separate commercial vehicle unit in July 2001. Volvo would hold a 19.9% stake in that unit while Mitsubishi would hold the other 80.1%.
Mitsubishi is considering setting up a holding company within its car division and having the truck unit be a separate part of it. The idea, said company officials, is to prevent conflicts between DaimlerChrysler and Volvo.
According to Sonobe, nothing has been decided with Volvo. Mitsubishi "will take up the most suitable option based on effectiveness and profitability," he said.
Meanwhile, Volvo's alliance with Mitsubishi to sell and service its Class 3-7 trucks in Canada is evolving nicely, said Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus president Yuzo Murata. The alliance was established early this year.
He said a study on U.S. distribution and manufacturing strategies is progressing, and it's anticipated that the findings will be announced first quarter 2001.
Murata allowed that Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus is considering the feasibility of producing trucks in the U.S. If it does, "the trucks will have much more North American components," he said.