Kobashi, 53, has been with Mitsubishi since 1983 when he was fresh out of college. Previous to taking the top job in North America, he was installed as corporate general manager of the NA office at Mitsubishi's headquarters in Japan, where he coordinated regional operations for the US, Canada and Mexico. Before that, he held posts in planning, marketing, advertising and public relations for the company.
Kobashi takes over the company's North American operations at a pivotal time, when the region is finally showing signs of life after a prolonged period of stagnation. As Automotive News notes, Mitsubishi only sold 62,227 vehicles in the US in 2013, but that figure still represents an eight-percent increase. Its crossovers, the new-for-2014 Outlander (shown below) and the two-year-old Outlander Sport have been selling relatively well, and the affordable Mirage subcompact is a new arrival at dealers.
Despite many critics suggesting for years that the automaker will pull up stakes in North America, Mitsubishi recommitted to the US with a $100-million investment in its Normal, IL plant back in 2012, and executives have repeatedly vowed to stay the course in the market. Kobashi faces an uphill battle ahead in the fight for relevance and profit, but there's the possibility of more product on the horizon, including a sedan version of the Mirage, and eventually, a Montero replacement.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) today announced that effective March 1, 2014, Ryujiro Kobashi will succeed Yoichi Yokozawa as President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA).
Prior to his new position as President and CEO of MMNA, Kobashi was the Corporate General Manager of the North America Office at Mitsubishi Motors headquarters in Japan as the head manager of the main division coordinating North American operations including the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Kobashi's distinguished career with MMC began in April 1983 when he joined the company's Overseas Planning Department, supporting activities for sales and advertising/publicity in foreign countries, as a recent graduate of Hitotsubashi University, where he earned a Bachelor of Sociology degree.
Over the years, Kobashi has lived in a variety of diverse regions around the globe where he served in key management positions including overseeing the marketing, sales promotions and advertising for Mitsubishi Motors in Germany and the Netherlands, as well as coordinating the company's business operations in the ASEAN regions.
"I am very much looking forward to this new opportunity as we navigate Mitsubishi Motors North America to thrive in the U.S. market under MMC's 'New Stage 2016' business plan," said Kobashi.
Yoichi Yokozawa will be returning to Japan for an executive assignment in MMC's Corporate Planning Office. He became President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. in April 2011, and oversaw three critical North American product launches: the new all-electric i-MiEV, the completely-redesigned 2014 Outlander, and most recently, the all-new 2014 Mirage. He also oversaw the commencement of U.S. production, in 2012, of the Outlander Sport at MMNA's Manufacturing Division in Normal, Illinois.
About Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc.
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for all research & development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and financial services for Mitsubishi Motors in the United States. MMNA sells sedans and crossovers/SUVs through a network of approximately 400 dealers. MMNA is leading the way in the development of highly-efficient, affordably-priced new gasoline-powered automobiles while using its industry-leading knowledge in battery electric vehicles to develop future EV and PHEV models.