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Mitsubishi to launch eight new green cars by 2016

TOKYO, Jan 20, 2011 – Japan\’s Mitsubishi Motors said Thursday it would launch a new line-up of environmentally friendly cars by March 2016 and double operating profit in the next three years by focusing on emerging markets.

Mitsubishi will launch a total of eight electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, starting with a mini commercial vehicle, the MINICAB-MiEV, the company said as it unveiled a new mid-term business plan.

Japan\’s fourth-largest automaker launched the i-MiEV, the world\’s first commercially produced electric vehicle, in 2009 and the race to manufacture greener cars has heated up among rivals such as Nissan, Toyota and Ford.

The new models will also include Mitsubishi\’s first plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, to be rolled out in the fiscal year starting April 2012 as it looks to boost emerging market production to target growth.

It aims to double operating profit to 90 billion yen ($1.10 billion) in the year to March 2014 and triple net profit to 45 billion yen.

Mitsubishi hopes the new business strategy, which also includes cost cuts, will boost its earnings as it looks to expand its China business through a new joint venture with a local partner.

"There is huge domestic demand in China and people\’s living standards are rapidly improving. I believe there is no major doubt that China will continue to grow," company president Osamu Masuko told reporters.

The automaker said it would build a third factory in Thailand in fiscal 2011, making the nation the company\’s second-largest export hub after Japan, and produce a low-price, energy-efficient compact for the growing middle class.

Mitsubishi will also increase capacity in China and Brazil, and begin full-scale production of sport-utility vehicles in Russia.

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Masuko said his company wants to maintain its production level in Japan but acknowledged it is "very difficult to keep the current export-oriented structure and expand output and capacity in Japan."

"We have to produce cars where consumers are and where there are less foreign exchange risks," he said.

For many Japanese automakers, the yen\’s surge against the dollar and the euro has eaten into profits and made exporting from Japan less profitable.

More companies are considering moving production abroad to stay competitive against rivals benefiting from weaker currencies in their home countries.

Mitsubishi\’s ratio of overseas production to total output is expected to rise to 54 percent in the fiscal year 2013 from 44 percent in fiscal 2010.

Global output is to soar to 1.58 million units from 1.1 million in the same period, the company said.

It targets sales of 2.5 trillion yen in fiscal 2013, up from 1.9 trillion yen expected for fiscal 2010 ending in March 2011.

Mitsubishi shares closed higher Thursday, up 1.69 percent at 120 yen, outperforming a 1.13 percent rise in the benchmark Nikkei index.

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