* Automaker seeks 44 pct rise in SE Asia sales over 3 years
* Plans to double capacity to 100,000 vehicles per year
(Adds company confirmation, industry context)
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, March 31 Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corp
said it has bought the site of a former auto plant in
the Philippines from Ford Motor Co, beefing up production
as it targets a near-50 percent sales boost in fast-growing
Southeast Asia markets.
Mitsubishi Motors, the second-biggest automaker in the
Philippines by sales volume after Toyota Motor Corp,
said on Monday it will centre its Philippines production at the
plant in Laguna from January 2015. The plant will have an annual
capacity of about 50,000 vehicles, gradually rising to around
As part of the strategy, the auto maker will close and sell
its ageing existing Philippines plant in Rizal, spokeswoman
Tomoko Kawabe said. Mitsubishi Motors declined to say how much
it paid to buy the Laguna plant, where Ford made sports utility
vehicles until December 2012.
The move by Mitsubishi Motors, maker of Triton pickup trucks
and Outlander SUVs, adds to growing competition among global car
makers in the populous Southeast Asia region, dominated by
Toyota and other Japanese car makers.
"We are planning to prepare for future growth in the
Philippines, whose auto market is likely to continue grow
sustainably," the company said in a statement.
For second-tier car makers like Mitsubishi Motors and Suzuki
Motor Corp, Southeast Asia offers a major opportunity
as they seek to compensate for shrinking sales in their ageing
domestic market. The region now accounts for a quarter of
Mitsubishi Motors' global vehicle sales.
Mitsubishi Motors has a plan to expand regional sales by 44
percent over three years to end-March 2017. In the Philippines
it currently makes vehicles including the Lancer EX sedan and
the Adventure SUV.
Non-Japanese car makers are also seeking to build up their
regional presence. Last year, Volkswagen AG set up
distribution channels in Philippines, while General Motors
has been stepping up its efforts to sell cars in the
region including Indonesia.
Shares in Mitsubishi Motors rose 1.9 percent in morning
trade to 1,077 yen, outperforming the Nikkei benchmark's
0.4 percent gain.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Dominic Lau, Paul Tait
and Kenneth Maxwell)