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Mitsubishi closes California design studio

Wed, 11 Mar 2009

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. closed its design studio in Cypress, CA last Thursday – just one month shy of its 25th anniversary. A result of the recent downturn in the global economy, the closure of the facility will eliminate 33 design positions as part of a personnel cull that has seen 60 people within the automaker's US operations lose their jobs.

The decision to close the Research and Development of America (MRDA) design studio in Cypress, CA brings the number of research and design facilities the manufacturer operates across the globe down to three. Corporate Communications Director Dan Irvin said the Japanese automaker will continue to design and develop vehicles at the company's main design facilities in Japan.

"What is germane is that all of the design will be done in Tokyo," Irvin told CDN. "This is a strategic implication that resulted in 60 jobs being eliminated."

According to Irvin, Mitsubishi Motors' R&D of Europe (MRDE) in Frankfurt, Germany, will continue to operate as a liaison office with the company's main design center - Mitsubishi's Okazaki Car Research and Development Center - located near Nagoya, Japan. Mitsubishi also operates the Tama Design Center in Tokyo, Japan.

Mitsubishi spokesman Maurice Durand said that MRDE will also see a reduction in staff, as will the MRDA facility in Ann Arbor, MI, which works on the automaker's engineering and regulatory matters. Durand said the job cuts were "driven by the current market situation and the need to reduce costs."

Mitsubishi's West Coast research and development facility is the latest casualty in a global recession that has seen Ford, GM and Chrysler in the headlines. Launched in 1984 as a pied-a-terre for the automaker's design efforts in the US, the design studio spawned the Galant, Endeavor, Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder, as well as the Concept-RA unveiled at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show.

This latest news is proof, if proof were needed, that design is not immune to the concessions being made within the automotive industry. The economic downturn is also having an adverse effect on Nissan Design America in Michigan, which announced the closure of its design facility in Farmington Hills last month. The automaker will integrate its design operations into NDA's studio in San Diego, CA beginning April 1 this year.

Related Article:
Design Development: Mitsubishi Concept-RA 

By Eric Gallina