Mitsubishi Gives Eclipse a Head Start

LOS ANGELES Confounding street expectations, Mitsubishi Motors North America today said that its Eclipse model is available now.

Mitsubishi had not expected to deliver the sports car, one of its two major 2005 launches, to dealers until mid-June.

The Cypress, Calif., automaker said that the first ads from Mitsubishi’s new agency, Omnicom Group’s BBDO, New York, would break Sunday, though it declined to elaborate on the campaign. The agency could not immediately be reached for comment.

“Since our production ramp-up has been virtually flawless, we saw no reason to hold back on deliveries,” said Dave Schembri, evp of sales and marketing, in a statement. “And the dealers are ecstatic.”

All dealers have been promised vehicles by Tuesday, May 24, said Chuck Barber of Barber Bros. Mitsubishi, Orem, Utah. “The Eclipse is a critical part of the turnaround,” Barber said. “It has been a core product, and it has such great pre-launch press, we are relying upon it to really take off.”

Barber said that during its peak sales period in 2001-02, the Eclipse sold upwards of 50,000 units. “Our expectations for this vehicle are very high,” he said, predicting sales to exceed 20,000 units before year’s end.

“It is a good volume product for them, and in some regards it is the flagship or halo unit for the brand,” said Wes Brown, analyst with Iceology, Westwood, Calif. “From a product and pricing standpoint, it will be competitive. But that being said, this is the first time a new generation Eclipse has arrived at a time when the brand has been in such trouble from an image standpoint. That makes its success much more difficult to predict.”