GONE FULL CIRCLE: From Cainta to Santa Rosa, Chrysler to Mitsubishi

By Jason K. Ang Philippine Daily Inquirer April 08,2019

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC), the longest-staying automotive company in the Philippines having been established in 1963 has achieved yet another milestone: its one millionth unit sales mark. .

The company was incorporated as Chrysler Philippines Corporation in February 1963 and started its assembly operation for Dodge Colt, Minica F4, Lancer, Cimarron and Mitsubishi trucks in May 1964.  The company changed its name to Canlubang Automotive Resources (CARCO) in 1978.  In 1985, CARCO was wholly-acquired by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) and Nissho Iwai Corporation and its entire manufacturing operations were in the Cainta plant.  In 1987, both of its major stockholders formally took over and incorporated Philippine Automotive Manufacturing Corp (PAMCOR).

PAMCOR continually upgraded its facilities to meet growing demand for high-quality vehicles which includes a state-of-the-art Japanese automotive painting technology. The company invested Php 200 million for the 8-dip Cathodic Electro Deposition Process (CEDP) primer system which is capable of coating the entire auto body in primer including difficult-to-reach crevices. PAMCOR was recognized as one of the Asia’s top five leading companies for product quality and service, the only automotive company to receive such a recognition.   With Mitsubishi Motors Corporation taking a 51% stake in PAMCOR, the company was renamed to Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation in 1996.

Mitsubishi has been a familiar and cherished name in the Philippine automotive scene. The company launched its share of iconic vehicles such as the Pajero which became a desirable SUV, even before the SUV term was commonly used. The premium four-wheel drive vehicle became a status symbol as it gained a reputation for rugged durability.

Mitsubishi Motors then developed the Silent Shaft engine technology for its four-cylinder engines. A pair of counter-rotating balance shafts helped quell engine vibration in large-displacement inline-four engines. This gained smoothness which is comparable to six-cylinder engines.

On the passenger car side, the inimitable Lancer dynasty has always had a strong following. They reached their pinnacle with the Lancer Evolution, which Mitsubishi officially release locally to much acclaim. One step up on the prestige scale, the Galant also led its class for some time, with models such as the GTi adding desirability to the Mitsubishi brand.

MMPC launched new models, such as the Adventure in 1998, capturing greater market share. With the Adventure in its lineup, MMPC was able to regain its number one market position.

In December 2009, MMPC achieved its 500,000 unit production milestone. This also marked the start of local production of the Lancer EX, a vote of confidence in the manufacturing capability of the company and its Filipino workers.

MMPC welcomed 2015 as it transferred to its new home in Sta. Rosa, Laguna which has considerable room for future expansion. MMPC participated with the government Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program thru the production of the Mirage G4 and Mirage hatchback as its entry models.

Mitsubishi Motors continues to strive for excellence as it installed the country’s first 2,000 ton stamping machine at an investment cost of more than Php 2 billion. This enabled the company to produce substantial parts such as the vehicle body side outer panel, roof panel, floor panel, and door panel. The new stamping facility helped MMPC comply with the CARS program which requires participants to manufacture at least 50 percent of the assembly weight. It also contributed to hundreds of direct and indirect jobs and cut down delivery lead time of metal stamped parts.

In February 2017, MMPC commenced the local production of the Mirage G4, the first model manufactured under the CARS Program, in its 23-hectare Sta. Rosa, Laguna plant and presented the same model to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at Malacañan Palace. After 5 months, the company started its assembly of Mirage Hatchback.  The local Mirage production certainly paved the way for greater opportunity for local companies to avail of technology transfer from foreign partners as well as provide increased employment for the local parts suppliers.

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