Former Nissan and Chrysler executive Fred Diaz will be put in charge of Mitsubishi’s North American operations, the latest step in the Renault Nissan Alliance’s plan to revive the small Japanese brand.
Diaz, 52, will become North American president and CEO, succeeding Ryujiro Kobashi, who will return to Mitsubishi's headquarters in Japan. The appointment is effective April 1.
The Japanese brand, now pushing ahead as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, is ready to turn the page after a rough stretch with the help of the Outlander PHEV and Eclipse Cross -- a compact, coupelike crossover that will compete against the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The Outlander PHEV began trickling into stores in December, while the Eclipse Cross arrives in March.
Mitsubishi’s U.S. deliveries have risen for five straight years. Last year, the brand sold 103,686 -- the first time it topped 100,000 since 2007 -- up 7.7 per cent from a year earlier. Its U.S. sales peak was 345,111, set in 2002.
Mitsubishi’s Canadian deliveries rose for the second consecutive year in 2017, up 1.9 per cent to 22,706 units.
In a three-year plan unveiled in October, the automaker said it's looking to hit 130,000 sales a year by the end of that period, with a lift from the Outlander PHEV and Eclipse Cross.
To do that, Mitsubishi will need to get the most from its stores, and it's offering to help underperforming dealers who are willing to stretch to reach their sales targets. Mitsubishi deploys experts on dealership operations as part of its "cure" program to help them form game plans and improve.
But Mitsubishi is matching its ambitious sales expectations with more aggressive rewards with volume-based "monetary incentives," said Don Swearingen, COO of Mitsubishi Motors North America.
In 2016, Nissan Motor Co. took controlling interest of Mitsubishi and has since moved a number of Nissan executives into key roles at Mitsubishi.
Diaz last year had quietly been assigned to the role of general manager in charge of performance optimization for Mitsubishi's global marketing and sales.
Before joining Nissan in 2013, Diaz was CEO of Ram and CEO of Chrysler de Mexico and Latin America.
Nissan recruited him as senior vice president for U.S. sales and marketing, reporting to Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz. Diaz was then assigned to step up Nissan's light-truck and commercial sales, marketing and operations across North America.
In a statement, Mitsubishi COO Trevor Mann said: "With his in-depth background and experience in North America, Fred has a strong ability to proactively engage with Mitsubishi Motors' dealers and customers as we aim to expand our dealership network, enhance our brand, and drive sales growth."