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Ralliart unit folds, but Mitsubishi keeps name

Thu, 11 Mar 2010

Mitsubishi will continue using the “Ralliart” brand name despite the demise of the Japanese racing parts company this week.

Ralliart Inc., a wholly owned Japanese subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., informed global distributors on Wednesday that it would cease business operations March 31.

In the United States and Europe, Mitsubishi markets a Ralliart sports version of its Lancer, which has become a sporty halo car for the brand. That racing image has, in turn, influenced the styling of other Mitsubishi vehicles, such as the Outlander crossover.

But Mitsubishi does not use Ralliart parts in the United States or distribute them to U.S. retailers.

“We still own the Ralliart name, and we still intend to brand our cars with it,” Maurice Durand, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. in Cypress, Calif., said Thursday.

Durand said the industry is still likely to see Ralliart jackets, caps and other merchandise branding in the years to come.

“The biggest change for us is that we won't have to pay royalties to use the name anymore,” he said.

Ralliart's failure is a symptom of the Japanese tuner market, which has been in decline for several years. The company's racing suspension parts and turbocharging kits proved to be too expensive when exported to markets such as the United States. Unfavorable exchange rates contributed to the parts' competitive problems.

In a letter to Ralliart customers around the world that was posted on the company's Web site, President Masao Taguchi said business conditions “surrounding our company radically became worse” after the economic crash of 2008.

By Lindsay Chappell- Automotive News