Published reports say that DaimlerChrysler AG is inching closer to a deal that would see Mitsubishi Motors Corp. spin off its truck business.
According to Ward's Automotive Reports, there is speculation that Mitsubishi's truck business, believed to be the main attraction for Daimler Chrysler, will be spun off into an independent company. U.S. sales are expected to be outsourced to Freightliner LLC. DaimlerChrysler owns 37.3% of Mitsubishi.
Automotive News reports that former DaimlerChrysler executive Rolf Eckrodt, who will become CEO of Mitsubishi next month, will oversee Mitsubishi's light vehicle and commercial truck operations, which would bring a unified view to any cooperation talks with DaimlerChrysler.
At a press conference in March to announce Eckrodt's promotion, Mitsubishi president Takashi Sonobe said the two companies were still exploring possibilities and opportunities in trucks.
However, Mitsubishi does have a negative image in Japan, due to its domestic auto business, where sales have slumped due to recalls and quality scandals.
"DaimlerChrysler is still focused on Mitsubishi's commercial vehicles and nervous about their passenger cars," Seiji Sugiura, a senior analyst with Nomura Securities in Tokyo, told Ward's. "The overall Japanese market is not only weak but extremely unfriendly to Mitsubishi models."
While both companies produce a full line of trucks, DaimlerChrysler's Freightliner and Mercedes brands specialize in larger trucks. Mitsubishi's specialty is cabover small- to medium-sized urban delivery trucks.
"In the light-truck segments, Mitsubishi products are very suited to the Japanese and Asian market, which we don't have," Rainer Jahn, outgoing head of DaimlerChrysler Japan Holding Ltd., told Automotive News. "We can see real potential if we make use of what they have."
DaimlerChrysler began selling and servicing Mitsubishi Canter light-duty trucks in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, and Poland last December. Canter was previously offered through Swedish truck maker AB Volvo’s sales network.
That changed with an April 2001 agreement covering DaimlerChrysler’s acquisition of Volvo's 3.3 % share of Mitsubishi plus all rights pertaining to the alliance between Mitsubishi and Volvo. That agreement involves the development and planning of new products, as well as the rights to sell light-duty Mitsubishi trucks.