Mitsubishi Motors Corp., in a recently announced global restructuring, will cut 1,000 jobs, or 22% of its 5,400-person U.S. workforce over the next three years. Most cuts will come through attrition, company officials say, but layoffs will affect hourly workers and executives.

Plans call for shrinking the 1,200-person sales division to 1,000, while 700 jobs will be eliminated at the company's Normal, IL, assembly plant, which currently employs 4,200. The plant makes the Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe and Galant sedan, and the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger coupes.

The Japanese parent also is said to be exploring affiliations or partnerships with other carmakers, including closer ties with DaimlerChrysler AG and Swedish joint venture partner Volvo AB.

The latest cost-slashing comes just as Pierre Gagnon, chief of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc., was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Mr. Gagnon, 42, left his position as director of consumer marketing at General Motors Corp.'s Saturn Div. in 1997 to join MMSA as group vice president. He was promoted to CEO last December.

Mitsubishi is beginning to show strength in the U.S. market, he says, where it holds a 1.9% share in the new car segment, with sales rising 24% in September. Mr. Gagnon says the 1999 Galant midsize sedan is paving the way for an entire re-launch of the Mitsubishi brand. "With the potential for being our best-selling product, Galant offers the best opportunity we've had in a long time to increase our sales volume, better utilize our American production facility and raise consumer awareness of our brand," he says. Anticipated '99 model year sales for the Galant are 60,000 units.

Other model line sales increases as of September include the Eclipse Spyder convertible, up 32%; Montero Sport, up 22%; and entry-level Mirage four-door sedan, up 43%. Overall sales for '98 are expected to reach 200,000 - a level not seen since 1994.

"We are at a time of real change in the way we do business," Mr. Gagnon said. "We've established 12 teams representing our retail partners, dealers, field operations, credit company and corporate headquarters."

MMSA will launch an all-new Eclipse next summer, plus a redesigned Mirage and Montero SUV, says Mr. Gagnon. - with Jim Mateja