The problems for Mitsubishi and its Dutch factory, NedCar, began with that common bogeyman, the Smart ForFour. At the end of ForFour production, there was no vehicle in the pipeline for Mitsubishi or then-partner DaimlerChrysler that could be built in the Dutch factory and put its 180,000 cars-per-year capacity to use. Now that the European economy is teetering on the edge of implosion, Mitsubishi is pulling its Colt and Outlander models from Born and putting the plant up for sale. The latest production figures report that NedCar is building just 50,000 cars per year, and since Mitsubishi has a factory under construction in Thailand, located closer to more robust emerging markets, it makes more sense to move where the food is. NedCar workers are naturally unhappy, with about 1,000 recently protesting the decision to move production.
The plant, which started life in the 1960s building both the DAF 44 and 55, was partly underwritten by the government of Holland to provide employment to a regional workforce that had lost a lot of jobs when the mines in Limburg closed. Volvo bought DAF and kept the plant busy with the 66 and 343 through the 1980s. Mitsubishi and the Dutch Government joined Volvo as joint stakeholders in the plant in 1991 as a way to keep it humming at capacity, since Volvo could only manage 120,000 cars per year on its own. Ten years later, Mitsubishi bought out the other two-thirds of the plant and now the Outlander and Colt are going to be out by December 2012.
You can pick up the NedCar facility for a mere dollar, but Mitsubishi Motors President Osamu Masuko will want to see your plan for the 1,500 workers before selling the factory so cheaply. All hope is not lost for the workforce just yet, there are rumors of a potential new owner looking to swoop in and start building a new car in the plant by 2015, creating about 800 jobs in the process. The logical money is on that automaker being Volvo, though Gothenburg has been mum so far.