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Renault could build Mitsubishi cars in France, report says

Renault could build cars for Mitsubishi in France under a plan that would see the Japanese automaker reverse its decision to stop selling its vehicles in Europe, the Financial Times reported.

Mitsubishi will consider the plan at a board meeting on Thursday, the paper said, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Mitsubishi said last year that it would wind down operations in Europe after failing to reverse losses in the region.

Mitsubishi’s withdrawal from Europe was part of revised global strategy from the three alliance partners that called for Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi to focus on their profitable markets and either exit or reduce operations in markets where they struggled to make money. Mitsubishi said it would concentrate on southeast Asia.

In a change of strategy, Mitsubishi could keep a European presence and sell models built in underused Renault factories in France, the Financial Times said. The plan may still fall apart, the paper said.

Mitsubishi has not built cars in Europe since the company sold its Nedcar production plant in the Netherlands in 2012.

Renault and Nissan already have some cross-manufacturing in Europe. Renault builds the Nissan Micra small car at its plant in Flins, France, as well as commercial vans for Nissan at Maubeuge and Sandouville, France. Until recently Nissan built the Renault Alaskan pickup at its factory in Barcelona.

Renault CEO Luca de Meo has said he aims to boost capacity utilization at Renault factories to 120 percent by 2025 from 70 percent now.

Renault has already said its Flins plant will stop making cars and instead be used to refurbish used cars and for other “circular economy” activities.

A decision by Mitsubishi to stay in Europe could mean the automaker will sell the redesigned Outlander in the region. The midsize SUV will go on sale in the U.S. in April.

The current Outlander’s plug-in hybrid version was Europe’s top-selling plug-in hybrid for a long time but it lost that title to the Mercedes A-Class last year, according to data from Germany-based automotive industry analyst Matthias Schmidt.

Mitsubishi’s best-selling model in Europe is the aging Mirage/Space Star small car. The automaker sold 35,669 units of the small hatchback in the region last year, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers.

The low-tech model is imported from Thailand and could be a prime candidate to switch to Renault production.

Mitsubishi had already reversed an earlier decision not to sell the Eclipse Cross plug-in hybrid compact SUV in Europe and the model is now on sale in Germany and other markets.

Asked about the Financial Times report, Mitsubishi said its decision made last summer to freeze new car development for Europe remains the same.

File source

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