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Mitsubishi eyes extension of CARS program

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURER Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (MMC) is eyeing a three-to-five-year extension of its commitment to the country’s Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) program, citing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let’s say (a) three-to-five-year (extension) — something like that,” MMC President and Chief Executive Officer Takao Kato said after being asked for an update during an ambush interview on the sidelines of the 60th anniversary celebration of MMC’s local unit, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC), in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna last Friday.

Mr. Kato said the company aims to add a new model for local production at its Sta. Rosa manufacturing plant once the extension request is approved by the Philippine government, along with other locally produced models such as the Mirage hatchback, Mirage G4 sedan, and the L300 utility vehicle.

“If (the) government can think about CARS program extension, we would be very happy. In that case, we definitely want to introduce another new model to this MMPC manufacturing plant. That is my plan. In 2023, I would like to decide (on) that,” Mr. Kato said.

The P27-billion CARS program, signed in 2015, grants fiscal incentives and budgetary support to MMPC and Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. (TMP). The two car manufacturers are required to produce 200,000 units over a six-year period.

Under the program, MMPC produces the Mirage and G4 while TMP manufactures the Vios subcompact sedan. However, both car manufacturers have asked for an extension from the Philippine government due to the effects of the pandemic on their manufacturing operations. TMP has requested for a three-year lengthening. MMPC’s participation in the program is set to end this year while TMP’s will end in 2024.

Asked on the planned new model to be produced at MMPC’s Sta. Rosa plant, Mr. Kato said that he has yet to reach a final decision.

Previously, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it is hoping that MMC would consider the local production of its Xpander multipurpose vehicle (MPV) model. “I have not decided yet. But not only Xpander… we now have a lot of plans to introduce new models. Definitely, some of those new models will come to this MMPC manufacturing plant. I have not decided yet. But probably, in the next couple of months, I’d like to decide,” Mr. Kato said.

“Last time, we had a meeting with President Marcos. We have requested to extend our CARS program more because during the COVID (pandemic), we (could not) operate… very well because as everybody knows, (the) pandemic was terrible, and economic activity was almost stopped,” he added.

The executive said that Mr. Marcos is “very positive” about providing an extension to MMPC’s CARS program commitment. “He completely agrees with my opinion and he agrees that during the pandemic, economic activity almost stopped.” Mr. Kato said, and maintained that MMC remains committed to the Philippines following the celebration of MMPC’s 60th anniversary.

“I am very happy, and very proud that MMPC can celebrate the 60th anniversary here in the Philippines because, for Mitsubishi Motors, the Philippines is one of the most important markets. I know that Filipino people love Mitsubishi Motors very much,” Mr. Kato said.

MMPC President Takeshi Hara said that the company remains committed to the Philippine market, moving forward. “We have successfully surpassed all the challenges over a period of time, and we will remain steadfast and strong. We will continue to work as a team to further achieve our goals,” he explained.