Mitsubishi to increase March production

Japanese automaker Mitsubishi says that, despite the dramatic downturn in new vehicle sales experienced by all automakers across all markets, its inventories have reached levels low enough that it plans to increase production next month. Several of the automaker's Japanese plants will increase production levels, though none will return to last year's levels.

The automaker's Nagoya, Japan, plant, which builds the Colt, will build cars for 24 days (up from 16 in February), its Okayama plant, will increase its minicar line's production from 17 to 22 days and its "normal" vehicle line from seven to 15 days.

Despite the downturn in gas-slupring SUV sales, the automaker's Pajero plant is doubling its operation days from 9 to 18.

Mitsubishi is the first of what's expected to be several Japanese automakers to increase production. Many factories across Japan had been all but shuttered beginning late last year as sales came to a screeching halt across the globe.

The automaker hasn't made any announcements about production beyond April - it's likely a "wait and see" game.

"We are often asked whether we will boost production in April, but that is still undecided," Mitsubishi spokesman Yuki Murata told the Associated Press.

Mitsubishi has still lowered its fiscal year production goals by 300,000 compared to its initial plan launched well before the downturn. The automaker is forecasting a $670 million loss for the fiscal year through March - its first loss in three years.

The automaker has also not announced any changes to its North American facility in Normal, Illinois. Rumors continue to swirl that the under-utilized plant will be switched over to export production.