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First Mitsubishi Endeavor Sport Utility Rolls Off The Line in Illinois; Country's Most Flexible Auto Plant Now Builds Six Models on Single Line

NORMAL, Ill., Jan. 17, 2003; Local officials and NASA Endeavour astronaut Colonel Mark Lee joined Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) executives today in celebration as the first Mitsubishi Endeavor, a crossover S.U.V., rolled off the line at the company's manufacturing facility in Normal, Ill. Highlighting the company's flexible approach to manufacturing, Endeavor is the sixth model produced on a single assembly line at the facility, joining three other Mitsubishi products and two built for alliance partner DaimlerChrysler. No other auto plant in the country produces more models on a single line.

"Endeavor is a testament to the hard work of our employees, the flexibility of our manufacturing process and the commitment of our company to build vehicles in North America for North American consumers," said MMNA Manufacturing Division President and Chief Operating Officer Rich Gilligan.

Gilligan presented the first Endeavor to USAF Col. Lee (Ret.), a former NASA astronaut and payload commander on the first Endeavour STS-47 space shuttle mission in 1992, and Space Center Chief Executive Officer Larry Capps.

"Our first Endeavour shuttle mission was a collaborative effort between the United States and Japan," Lee said. "It's exciting to see that spirit continue as Mitsubishi Motors kicks off its Project America initiative with an Endeavor launch of its own."

Lee and Capps will take the donated vehicle to Huntsville, Ala., where Space Camp staff will use it as the official vehicle for their travel to schools and other venues throughout the country.

"We owe Mitsubishi Motors a debt of thanks for their commitment to the U.S. Space Camp® program," Capps said. "This terrific new Mitsubishi Endeavor Sport Utility will be a great addition to our camp and will support our mission to inspire and educate young people."

Endeavor is the first vehicle in Mitsubishi Motors' Project America initiative, a $1.5 billion investment by the company to develop vehicles in North America specifically for the North American market. Endeavor was conceived at Mitsubishi Motors' design center in Cypress, Calif., and much of the engineering work was done at Mitsubishi Motors' research and development operation in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Endeavor platform will serve as the underpinnings for future Project America vehicles, including the next generation Galant mid-sized sedan, Eclipse sport coupe and Eclipse Spyder convertible.

"The Endeavor is an all-new vehicle that makes a very Mitsubishi statement with its stylish design, spirited performance and bold character," MMNA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pierre Gagnon said. "We hope this crossover injects excitement about our brand in the mid-size S.U.V. category, which lately has become crowded with me-too products."

The Endeavor is expected to compete favorably in the mid-sized S.U.V. market against such vehicles as the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. Endeavor is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine and will be available as either a front-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive model. Endeavor arrives in showrooms in March 2003 as a 2004 model with a starting price of $25,597 for the LS model and up to $33,497 for a Limited model with four-wheel drive (freight and options additional).

U.S. Representative Tim Johnson, whose district includes Bloomington/Normal, joined Gilligan at the ceremony and praised the company for its hard work and commitment to the region.

"With the launch of Endeavor and the other new vehicles that Mitsubishi will launch in North America in the near future, we have an opportunity to show the nation and the world the high quality of products and exports that Illinois produces," Johnson said. "You make me and all of the citizens of Illinois proud and I encourage you to continue your hard work ethic and unique skills as Project America continues."

MMNA expects to produce more than 60,000 Endeavors at the Illinois plant in 2003, among the more than 240,000 vehicles projected for the facility this year. The 2003 projections mark the highest total ever for the Illinois plant and an 18 percent increase over total production of approximately 203,000 units in 2002.

"At a time when some companies are closing plants, trimming their workforce and moving manufacturing jobs to other countries, Mitsubishi Motors North America is in growth mode and is committed to further investment in Illinois," Gilligan said. "The outlook for Mitsubishi Motors and Central Illinois is very bright."

To ensure a seamless launch, the plant began preparations for Endeavor in November 2000 with a 170,000-square-foot expansion of the facility, retooling and installation of new equipment. More than 90 new Body Shop robots were installed, thousands of adjustments were made to existing robots, conveyors, lifts and transfer stations, and a new 4,800-ton stamping press was put in place.

This infrastructure expansion for Endeavor follows a steady pattern of growth since the plant broke ground in 1987. The company has invested more than $2.4 billion in property and equipment improvements, creating one of the most technologically advanced automotive manufacturing facilities in the world. The 2.5-million-square-foot manufacturing facility covers 636 acres.

Since 1988, Mitsubishi Motors has pumped $3.3 billion into the local economy through taxes, salary and benefits, including $285 million in 2002. Operationally, Mitsubishi Motors has spent more than $4 billion on product parts from Illinois-based suppliers since 1987. And an additional $1 billion has been spent with Illinois materials and services suppliers.

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA) is responsible for all of the North American operations of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. As a single company consolidated on Jan. 1, 2003, MMNA and its subsidiaries manufacture, distribute, finance and market Mitsubishi brand coupes, convertibles, sedans and sport utility vehicles through a network of nearly 700 dealers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Mitsubishi Motors sold its first vehicle in the U.S. in 1981, and began building cars here in 1988 at its manufacturing facility in Normal, Ill. For more information, contact the Mitsubishi Motors News Bureau (888.560.6672).

Space Camp has graduated more than 400,000 young people of all ages since its inception in 1982. More than 400,000 people from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® each year. Over 10 million people have visited since 1970.