Mitsubishi is selling its shuttered Pajero factory to Daio Paper, Japan’s leading maker of tissue and toilet paper. It’s an ignoble end for the plant, formerly the crown jewel of Mitsubishi Motors’ manufacturing empire. The facility was famously named after Mitsubishi’s 12-time Paris-Dakar Rally winner, the pride and joy of a once proud carmaker.
Before its closure in 2020, Pajero Manufacturing Co., Ltd., was the largest employer in the region. It was so crucial to the economy of Sagahogi, in Gifu Prefecture where the plant was located, that the city was nicknamed Pajerotown. The versatile assembly lines not only built Pajeros, but also the Delica, Forte/Mighty Max pickup. and Mitsubishi escalator trusses. Mitsubishi even used its extra capacity to build cars for other companies, like Toyota and Honda.
News of the factory’s sale was reported by the Nikkei, which says the price tag for the whole shebang, including the land, was about ¥4 billion (USD $34 million). It’s part of Mitsubishi Motors’ restructuring plan, which desperately needs to eliminate fixed costs in order to turn the flailing company around.
The Nikkei adds, “The automaker also faced a 30 percent rise in fixed costs between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2019 as a result of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s aggressive expansion strategy, putting pressure on its bottom line.”
At its peak, the plant built 170,000 cars per year. Originally, locals hoped that Mitsubishi would find another automaker to buy the plant so that workers could transition more easily into new roles.
The Nikkei reports, “Of the roughly 1,000 employees at the plant, about 30 percent will be reassigned within Mitsubishi Motors, and another 30 percent have taken new jobs with other businesses in the area. Just over 250 have accepted early retirement offers. Some likely will look to work at the Daio factory when it opens.”
Those who do will find a different landscape. “Daio plans to use the site for producing sanitary paper products, a category that includes tissues and toilet paper,” the article states. Ironically, the paper industry is facing its own struggles, as the world has rapidly transitioned to more electronic forms of communication. That’s one of the reasons Daio has been shifting more towards sanitary paper products and packaging.
We knew from the moment Mitsubishi axed the Pajero that the result would be sad, but it’s hard to imagine a greater fall than the one from Dakar-dominating trucks to butt wipes. Pajero Manufacturing Co., Ltd. was one of the more interesting factories in the automotive world, but now it’ll just have to settle for number two.