More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Although he has been in his new position just four days, Mitsubishi Motors North America President and CEO Richard Gilligan says he is here to stay – as is his beleaguered company.

“If I really thought in my heart of hearts that this brand is not going to succeed and to grow, I wouldn’t be picking up and going to California and taking my wife on her 13th move,” Gilligan tells Ward’s in an interview at the North American International Auto Show.

“I have absolute, utmost confidence in this company, in this brand (and) in the support from the parent company,” he says.

Gilligan headed up Mitsubishi’s sole North American manufacturing plant in Normal, IL, where last year he had to cut one shift amid slumping sales.

He says he doesn’t expect to have any more near-term staff cutbacks at Normal.

“We’re where we need to be right now, based on the current sales level,” he says. “It’s truly not my expectation to stay at those (low) levels.”

Gilligan says he will name his replacement at Normal in a few weeks.

Last year, MMNA sold 162,279 vehicles in the U.S., a 37% drop from 2003.

Mitsubishi expects to stage a product comeback in the U.S. market with the new Eclipse and Raider pickup models, to be unveiled here later today.

“I about fell off my chair when I read Mitsubishi has nothing coming down the pipeline,” says Daniel J. Sims, general manager-Mitsubishi Design of America. “It’s like, why do we have our lights on 12 hours a day if nothing’s coming? What are we working on? We’re cranking all the time,” he says of the focus on future vehicles.

“If you don’t have fresh, new or exciting product coming every five or six years, you’re not going to be (in the U.S. auto industry),” says Gilligan. “That is the absolute entry card just to play in the game.”

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com