* Carmaker to stop making Colt, Outlander at Dutch plant
* Dutch production sharply below capacity - media
* Mitsubishi shifting focus towards emerging markets
By James Topham
TOKYO, Feb 6 Japan's Mitsubishi Motors
Corp said it will end production at its only western
European plant, in the Netherlands, at the end of this year, a
move that was expected as its sales in Europe have dropped by a
third from their peak.
The Netherlands Car, or NedCar, plant makes the Colt
subcompact and the Outlander sports utility vehicle, but
accounted for less than 5 percent of Mitsubishi Motors' global
output of 1.1 million vehicles in the year to last March.
With demand in western Europe expected to remain sluggish,
carmakers have been shifting focus to eastern Europe and other
emerging markets where projected sales growth rates are higher.
NedCar's output has slumped to 50,000 vehicles a year
compared with peak capacity of 200,000.
Speculation had been rife that Mitsubishi Motors could close
the plant, which employs about 1,500 people, after it had said
it would stop making the Colt in Europe at the end of 2012.
The Japanese firm said it had not yet decided what to do
with the plant. It will supply vehicles to the European market
from Japan and Thailand.
Last week, Mitsubishi Motors booked an April-December
operating profit of 38.51 billion yen, but posted an operating
loss in Europe of 11.4 billion yen ($148.85 million).
Its sales in Europe hit 340,000 vehicles in 2007/08, but
last year dropped to 218,000.
Mitsubishi Motors is building a new factory in Thailand and
studying increasing production in China and Brazil, where sales
growth is projected to be higher than in developed nations.
Local rival Nissan Motor Co Ltd, which operates a
car plant, Britain's biggest, in the northeast of England,
said last month it will build a $2 billion plant
in Mexico to boost sales in the Americas.
NedCar, based in Born, started in 1991 as a three-way
venture between Mitsubishi Motors, Volvo and the
Dutch government. Mitsubishi Motors became the sole shareholder
in 2001 after buying out its partners.