Mitsubishi Motors Relocates North America HQ to Tennessee

June 27, 2019 Updated: June 27, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Mitsubishi Motors announced on June 25 that it is relocating its North America headquarters to Tennessee from California, a move that will bring the Japanese automaker closer to its sister company Nissan and strengthen Tennessee’s growing reputation as an epicenter of the automotive sector.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe—who made the announcement along with Mitsubishi Motors North America—say the move to Franklin, Tennessee, from Cypress, California, will bring an $18.25 million investment to the region, along with about 200 jobs.

Lee and Rolfe added that they met with Mitsubishi’s global executives last week, while in Japan during the Republican governor’s first trade mission, to convince them to move to Tennessee. It’s unclear what financial incentives state officials offered to Mitsubishi.

“As we drive toward the future, this is the perfect time for us to move to a new home. While we say farewell to the Golden State with a heavy heart, we’re excited to say hello to Music City,” Fred Diaz, Mitsubishi Motors North America’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Franklin is located just south of Nashville, also known as “Music City,” and is home to the state’s most powerful Republicans, among them Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada.

Mitsubishi’s relocation announcement is the latest move in an industry that has found a warm reception in recent years in the U.S. south, where politicians tend to take a dim view of labor unions and aggressive regulation.

“Over the years, Tennessee has become the epicenter of the Southeast’s thriving automotive sector, and I’m proud Mitsubishi Motors will call Franklin its U.S. home and bring 200 high-quality jobs to Middle Tennessee,” Lee, who took over the office this year, said in a statement.

Mitsubishi Motors’ North America headquarters has been located in California since 1988. The company expects the relocation will begin in August and will be completed by the end of the year. Initially, a temporary office will handle operations, to allow the company time to identify a permanent office.

Company officials say the move is part a continuing effort to “reinvent every aspect of Mitsubishi Motors in the U.S.,” as well as strengthen the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

Nissan has a production plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, and owns a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors.

Last week, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shareholders approved the ouster of Carlos Ghosn, who was pivotal in the Japanese automaker’s three-way partnership with Nissan and French automaker Renault until he was arrested on financial misconduct charges last year. Ghosn says he’s innocent.

Mitsubishi shareholders then approved the appointment of Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to replace Ghosn. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan.

German automaker Volkswagen operates a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee—the state’s fourth most-populated city. The company earlier this year unveiled an $800 million expansion at the site, which is expected to create 1,000 jobs for electric vehicle production beginning in 2022. It’s set to receive $50 million in state incentives.

Recently, Volkswagen workers voted against forming a factory-wide union—a setback to United Auto Workers’ efforts to gain a foothold among foreign auto facilities in the South.

Meanwhile, General Motors also has a large manufacturing plant in Tennessee. Additionally, more than 900 auto suppliers, including large ones such as Hankook Tire and Bridgestone Americas, operate in Tennessee.

Tennessee officials say the state has the fastest rate of headquarters job growth in the Southeast.

By Kimberlee Kruesi

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