Last week, we told you that Mitsubishi will be getting a new global president, with Osamu Masuko stepping aside in favor of Tesuro Aikawa. The executive changes at the Japanese automaker are hitting closer to home, now, with official word that Mitsubishi Motors North America is getting a new president and CEO, as well. Effective March 1, Ryujiro Kobashi will take over for Yoichi Yokozawa, 49, who has been in charge since April of 2011. Yokozawa is headed back to Japan, where he will assume a spot in the company's corporate planning offices.

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.
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Mitsubishi Motors Corporation Appoints New President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America

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.


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  • 59 Comments
      GR
      • 10 Months Ago
      They need newer models in the United States ASAP. It's sad when Mitsubishi dealers don't even know about models overseas. I helped a coworker buy a used Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. She was in the market for a car and preferably a small CUV so I introduced the Outlander Sport to her. Upon learning of its existence, she liked it and we then went shopping around for used ones. We checked out a few pre-owned models at a Mitsubishi dealer. That place was like a ghost town. While the sales guy was nice, he was not even aware that a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV existed and that it was on the way to the US. I had to school him on the car's existence. It's already on sale in Japan and Europe. The Mirage was a disappointment. I sat in it and just sighed. It's simply a new car for broke people. Honestly, get a used car of higher caliber and you will be happier. The Lancer needs a redesign. It was once competitive, but now at the back of the pack. It needs a total overhaul like what Ford did with the Focus. The new-ish Outlander is good, but I can't see how it really stands out from the crowd. They need that PHEV to even make it relevant. The Outlander Sport is actually a good small CUV. Fit and finish is good and Consumer Reports rated them as having the highest reliability rating (better than Camry, mind you). However, the 2.0 normally-aspirated engine mated to the CVT is miserable unless you are in no hurry to accelerate. I want Mitsubishi to succeed. I think they make decent cars for the money and I've always been a fan of smaller Japanese brands. I've owned Subarus, Suzukis, a Mazda, and a Mitsubishi and they've all been pretty good. Quality and reliability rivaled big Japanese names like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Mitsubishi has always been more daring with their designs and I like them for that. Just go look at Subaru concepts vs. production models if you want to see the other side. I'm hoping Mitsubishi will release newer models soon to revive their flat-line line up right now. You can do, Mitsu! Ganbare!
        Tourian
        • 10 Months Ago
        @GR
        His job is to sell what they've got on the lot. It is how he feeds his family. He doesn't make money talking ish to some nerd who spent all night on Wikipedia looking up every car Mitsu makes in other markets. When the new Outlander gets here, he'll learn it.
          GR
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Tourian
          You sound like an under-performing chump based on your comments. "...how he feeds his family" you say. Don't you think as a Mitsubishi salesman, he should be a little worried? Don't you think he should be concerned about the lack of decent products in his customer-less dealerships. He may be out of a job soon if Mitsubishi does not turn it around. Ironic that you make that statement and then be an apologist for lackluster salesmanship. I'm some nerd who spent time on wikipedia, huh? No, chump. I'm a guy who lived in Japan and goes back nearly every year. I know the JDM because I see it all the time. You're among car enthusiasts here, son, so try not to say something stupid again.
      strykerzzzz
      • 10 Months Ago
      I'm glad Mitsubishi committed to the United States. Those are American jobs in Normal, Illinois at their factory - not jobs in Canada, Mexico or Japan. I like the look of the Lancer & Outlander Sport with the aggressive looking front grill and nice lines on the sides. The Atari look on the front grill of the new Outlander is taking a little getting used to. At first it was repulsive, but I've seen them on the road a couple of times and it's not that bad. Kind of like how the new Jeep Cherokee looks better in person than in photos.
      Dave
      • 10 Months Ago
      A small Diesel pickup, hell, even just a small pickup would bring them back to relevance.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Dave
        True. That market maybe too small for a big player like Ford, but it's more than big enough for a small player like Mitsubishi.
      djrroar1
      • 10 Months Ago
      Most people do not understand Mitsubishi's plan for the U.S. They do not plan on being a high volume player in this country anytime soon or perhaps ever! They will continue to increase the capacity of the plant in Normal for vehicles in the U.S. and for export. If you look at the sales numbers they want to achieve they are modest. There will not be a huge influx of product in this country. My local Mitsu dealer is doing great, selling lots of new, taking in trades and building a nice business in the market. It takes a great deal of effort but it seems like it can be done.
      Semislicks
      • 10 Months Ago
      In EU the SpaceStar (Mirage in US) isnt Mitsus main product. ASX and now Outlander Hybrid (especially in Netherlands) carry that title. i-MiEV is quite costly flopp, cause I have yet to see one outside showroom and I travel A LOT. Lancer is slowly dying, especially Evo which is barely seen on streets anymore. Lancers biggest mistake is not interducing Rallyart diesel version (something to par with Golf GTD and Octavia vRS). A midsize saloon/wagoon as Galant is nowhere to be seen. I think Mitsu will end like Subaru, become niche-market wehicle, relying mostly on CUVs and SUVs with \"rally\" marketing excercise for their 4WD models. It isnt Mitsus fault that it gave up on driver machines like Starion, Evo, Eclipse GSX, 3000GT and Galant VR4, its us the consumers that search style without substance CUVs and SUVs. You can see that even on blogs like \"Autoblog\" that is supposed to be enthusiast oriented. If its stylish with great roomy interior and min fuel consumption, its cool, no matter that its slow and sloppy and will probably become old and boring next tuesday (for them).
      Cruising
      • 10 Months Ago
      I know everyone bashes on the Mirage but they are selling and to young people who need a affordable car because I see more and more everyday. If it means more young people can get into a new car that's a good thing.
      Siva Kumar D
      • 10 Months Ago
      Mitsubishi a pure mechanical pleasure lost out in the era of gadgets!!
      Scooter
      • 10 Months Ago
      As a consumer in general, and past fan of the Lancer, I'm confused as to Mitsubishi's direction. Mirage looks terrible. Its cheap, I get it. Affordable wheels with an a/c and radio. Outlander looks like a 2004 Minivan riding high. My thinking is that Mitsubishi wants to become something like what KIA/Hyundai were a few years ago. Affordable, moderate-to-unattractive vehicles that will get better fuel economy than the competition. My point is, sales numbers are getting bigger, and style is king in the industry. The days of the bland-trusty vehicle are dying out. Consumers are looking for high-style with affordable price tags. Fewer people are looking for downright affordability devoid of style. I really hope they work to change this sudden direction towards ugly and cheap.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Scooter
        Yup. Cheap cars are fine. But it has to have a selling point aside from its being cheap. For example- the old Scion xB was a cheap car. But it had character, and as a result it drew in customers from all walks of life, not just people too poor to afford anything else. To be fair- the Mirage does have a strong selling point- it is the most fuel efficient conventional gasoline car in America. I give them credit for that. The main drawback is the weak engine. Aside from that it is not a bad car at all.
          GR
          • 10 Months Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          Have you sat in it and seen it in person? I have. It's really the cheapo crap like what the Koreans used to make 15 years ago. Honestly, getting a used car that is better is wiser. The Mirage is only for people who really don't care about cars and want something small and cheap like some kind of disposable commodity.
        hokkaido76
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Scooter
        "My point is, sales numbers are getting bigger, and style is king in the industry. The days of the bland-trusty vehicle are dying out. Consumers are looking for high-style with affordable price tags. Fewer people are looking for downright affordability devoid of style. I really hope they work to change this sudden direction towards ugly and cheap." Absolute BALONEY.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @hokkaido76
          No, he's right.
          Dave
          • 10 Months Ago
          @hokkaido76
          How is it Baloney? I agree with Scooter 100% You feel that ugly and cheap is the way to go? You think the cars that Mitsu sells in the USA aren't ugly or cheap?? They are at the very least bland and not appealing to a majority of the US auto consumers.
        GR
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Scooter
        I agree with Scooter too. Just look at Hyundai and Kia. Even 10 years ago, they were ugly cheap cars that filled the need for basic transportation at a minimum price. Now, they are stylish and more upscale than ever. American consumers have turned around and starting buy them in lieu of Toyotas, Hondas, etc. They are even now tapping the near-luxury and luxury segments with the Azera, Genesis, Equus, Cadenza, and the new K900. Scooter is right about cars not being just basic transportation. People want stylish cars because they imagine how they'd be seen in them. If you can make a head-turner at an affordable price, you will sell them well. It's exactly what happened to the Sonata and Optima. I predict the new Chrysler 200 will be a hit too because of this.
      Dmitriy Markelov
      • 10 Months Ago
      Autoblog couldn't put up a picture of a Mitsubishi logo that wasn't smudged and dirty. The writers here tend to be awfully lazy, just grabbing whatever they happen to find first.
        Chris Paukert
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Dmitriy Markelov
        Dmitriy, Thanks for taking the time to comment. Believe it or not, that photo took a fair amount of time to settle on. I looked all over for images of the Mitsubishi executives in question – they don't have a single image of their new president on their North American media website! I even called their offices and left a message (got a generic voicemail box - their PR team is sadly very hard to track down these days). Additionally, I looked through our galleries and couldn't find a great photo of just the emblem that wasn't offset (those that weren't bad had been used recently in other articles). I admit it's not a particularly great image, but that's an AP photo – someone (not us) got paid to take that picture. Go figure. At any rate, I hope this helps clarify. Thanks again for the feedback.
        Tourian
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Dmitriy Markelov
        It is still an improvement. This and the wet one. Usually they up faded and rusted ones for automakers they think or are actually about to go out of business.
        carguy1701
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Dmitriy Markelov
        What the hell are you talking about?
      carguy1701
      • 10 Months Ago
      What they need are new compact and mid-size entries. Sub-compact segment in this market doesn't have enough volume to be considered bread and butter yet. That said, I still don't think they'll last much longer.
        Tourian
        • 10 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        define "much longer" It used to be geniuses like you would say they'd be gone in a year or 3-5 years. Now that isn't happening you all have become more nebulous - even adding advice to your doom and gloom posts.
          zoom_zoom_zoom
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Tourian
          carguy1701 is just a troll, bet to ignore his ignorance.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Tourian
          Well, considering that they don't have an entry in the hotly contested mid-size sedan segment (a segment that saw 3.6 million units sold last year), and the fact that their compact (also a hotly contested segment) hasn't been updated in since it was new for the 2007 model year, I'm gonna say that, barring a miracle, they'll close up shop in North America by the end of teh decade. I get that you either work for them or are a fan, but face facts.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Tourian
          >I get that you are a troll that doesn't understand the business, so face the facts that they are now profitable >willingly ignoring the fact that they have NOT been profitable the last few years Uh huh...
          Tourian
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Tourian
          I get that you are a troll that doesn't understand the business, so face the facts that they are now profitable and they have the world's only plug in crossover on the market. They have other product in the pipeline, and a recommitted effort to this market.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        I disagree. I think they should go after small niche segments that the big boys don't bother to play in. If they have to go head to head with the big boys in the mid-sized sedan arena, they would lose badly. cf. Suzuki.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          >The Mirage is a volume car, stupid. Not in this market. Americans are subcompact averse, and have been for years. The class, while definitely higher volume than it was back in 2005, when the only member was the Chevy Aveo, still isn't large enough to be considered a breadwinning class, as least as far as passenger cars go. That honor falls to the compact and mid-size classes, and guess what, their entry in the compact class is outdated and they lost their mid-sizer in 2012. The Mirage alone will not save them here, and neither will relying on crossovers.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          They need a volume car of some kind, and the Mirage isn't that car.
        Jazzor
        • 10 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        "That said, I still don't think they'll last much longer." Been hearing this for 7 years now... Not sure if you noticed, but in 2012 they sold 50,000 cars... in 2013 they sold close to 70,000... based on what I learned in middle school, 70 is higher than 50, therefore 70 is better (to the topic in question). I'm sure you knew this already though...
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jazzor
          And...? Most everyone else, save the Italian exotics, sold over 100k units here last year. 70k is pretty pathetic.
        hokkaido76
        • 10 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        Well see about that.......
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @hokkaido76
          Indeed we shall. Y'all really need to learn how this industry works.
          carguy1701
          • 10 Months Ago
          @hokkaido76
          yuno07: Its called looking at known facts and calling things as I see them. You need competent compact and mid-size sedans to survive here, and Mitsu has neither. >Seriously, all you are is an armchair quarterback who is living in his mom's basement, with nothing better to do than troll away on his computer all day....... Sup aaronm_mt. Nice of you to out yourself for me.
          zoom_zoom_zoom
          • 10 Months Ago
          @hokkaido76
          Yes, carguy1701 calls them like he sees them. Like all those Jeeps he sees with the spare tires mounted under the gas tanks.
      Walt
      • 10 Months Ago
      They drew straws and the loser got the job.
      RouteUS66Busload
      • 10 Months Ago
      Won't change a thing. Without president or a CEO is much better. Get a 12 member VIP working together without the arrogrant title of "president or CEO," the company would go better. Divide the bonuses, if no layoffs, into 12 of them than just 1 arrogrant CEO. Same way rid of the President and VP of the United states and get 12 VIPS acting as 1.
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