Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
MITSUBISHI MOTORS Philippines Corporation (MMPC) officials are keen to point out that they have been in operation in the country for an unmatched 55 straight years, which speaks volumes of the faith they have in our economy.
“This unprecedented record withstood the test of time which brought us to where we are today… (and the) company managed to stay in the country (even during) the 1980s economic crisis,” said MMPC President and CEO Mutsuhiro Oshikiri in a speech at the formal commemoration of the Japan-headquartered automaker’s one-millionth vehicle sold here. The executive paid tribute to the customers, dealers, and suppliers who were instrumental to MMPC’s success.
The affair held at the Makati Shangri-La was attended by government officials, partners, dealers, and members of the media, and was also an occasion for MMPC to recognize its parts suppliers. First headquartered in Cainta, Rizal, MMPC today maintains a 23-hectare facility in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, with a maximum production capacity of 50,000 units.
Upping the output was necessary to fulfill the company’s obligation under the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program of the government. It is only one of two players (the other being Toyota Motor Philippines) with the ability and confidence to tick all the right boxes required for participation, including the production of a minimum of 200,000 vehicles over six years ending in 2023.
Participants also need to ensure that body shells and large plastic parts are locally made. CARS is expected to create up to 200,000 “direct and indirect jobs in auto manufacturing, parts making, distribution, and ancillary services,” as well as serve as an impetus for corollary industries.
Featured at the event was a visual timeline of company milestones, and a couple of memorable vehicles in its long history: A 1983 Lancer, the so-called “Box Type” which had been a widespread hit and among the most desirable vehicle of its time, and a 1990 Pajero, which was significantly responsible for the SUV boom. The audience was told that 4,000 of the first-generation Pajeros were actually locally produced.
On the other side of the stage was a Mirage G4, which spearheaded the company’s involvement in CARS beginning in 2016. A hefty 41.5% of the car is sourced from local suppliers.
MMPC also unveiled a new version of the iconic L300 to address a lingering need for commercial vehicles. The L300 first appeared in 1987 in both cab and chassis and the Versa Van form. MMPC reports that the L300 “outlasted its more civilian L300 Delica and even its successor, the L400 Space Gear” on the way to selling around 195,000 units. Significantly, today’s L300 is now Euro 4-compliant, and is expected to be manufactured locally as well.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) Corporate Vice-President Yoichiro Yatabe said that the Philippines is an “important base in terms of production,” and cited the aforementioned L300 along with the Adventure and Lancer as evidence of success in the past — success that is today mirrored by the Xpander and Strada. “We may in the future venture into the export business (from here),” he declared, and reaffirmed MMC’s commitment to the Philippines.
For her part, Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba, delivering the speech of Secretary Ramon Lopez, lauded MMPC for also contributing “to the growth of small and medium enterprises (and for its) continued collaboration with the government, in strengthening the Philippine auto industry — especially under (the) CARS program, which is an initiative of the department to support the expansion and development of auto parts and suppliers through fiscal and non-fiscal support.”
She said that since joining the program in 2016, MMPC has sunk in P3.84 billion plus an additional P910 million for its in-house parts manufacturing activities. “This makes an estimated total investment worth P4.7 billion — surpassing the initial target of P4.3 billion based on the initial project proposal,” explained Usec. Aldaba.