GENEVA – Shortly after unveiling the all-new Colt at the auto show here, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. CEO Rolf Eckrodt refuses to comment on rumors he will be leaving the auto maker soon.

Mitsubishi equity partner DaimlerChrysler AG dispatched Smart GmbH CEO Andreas Renschler to Japan to devise a restructuring plan to right Mitsubishi’s course. Speculation has been building that the plan may include Eckrodt’s departure.

Eckrodt says he is in contact with Renschler “day-by-day” as the plan is being developed. He says he expects a series of new products, including the Colt, to help rebuild the auto maker’s prospects in the future.

“New product is one step for our new plan that we are doing now,” says Eckrodt. The plan will be announced April 30. Renschler and his team were given only a few weeks to get the plan together.

Mitsubishi CEO
Rolf Eckrodt

The Colt, which goes on sale in Europe in May, features a platform jointly developed with Smart. The auto maker expects to sell 35,000 Colts during the year, with total European sales coming in at 140,000 units in 2004.

“At the moment, we are really taking off…and now the products are coming,” he says.

Later this year, an all-new vehicle for the C- and D-segments will debut. The platform for these vehicles is being jointly developed with Chrysler Group. Eckrodt says the development is moving along as scheduled.

“We have got the teams working together in the U.S. and Japan, and now it comes down to the synergies we are waiting for. There are so many products in the pipeline, even with new products we can start to see the alliance potential,” he says.

Eckrodt says these products will account for the highest volumes for Mitsubishi and are crucial to the auto maker’s recovery.

kekelly@primediabusiness.com