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'Designed in America for America' Is Mitsubishi Heavy Mantra

Mitsubishi Heavy is also ready to add capacity to build more turbochargers in the U.S., where it opened a factory in Franklin, Ind., in 2015.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (IW 1000/116) plans to double research employees at its U.S. forklift division, underscoring the importance of its largest overseas market amid a drive by President-elect Donald Trump to expand jobs in the nation.

“We’re setting our sights firmly on the U.S. since it’s a big market,” said Atsushi Maekawa, chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Forklift, Engine & Turbocharger Holdings Ltd., the world’s third-largest manufacturer of forklifts. “We will invest more.”

Mitsubishi Heavy will combine its two forklift-production units, which have factories in Chicago and Houston, in October and plans to double U.S. research and development staff at the business to about 100 by that time, Maekawa said. His comments come on the heels of Toyota Motor Corp.’s announcement this week that it will invest $10 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, after Trump attacked the Japanese automaker for an earlier proposal to build a car-assembly factory in Mexico.

“We want to make forklifts designed in America for America,” Maekawa said Wednesday in an interview in Kawasaki city, near Tokyo. “The market is moving to forklifts powered by batteries instead of gasoline, and so we will shift our focus to that.”

Shares of Mitsubishi Heavy fell 1.2% to 524.1 yen as of 11:18 a.m. in Tokyo, compared with a 1% decline for the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

The U.S. accounted for 17% of Mitsubishi Heavy’s total revenue of 4.05 trillion yen (US$35 billion) in the 12 months ended March 2016, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Mitsubishi Heavy Forklift plans to increase sales of its forklifts in the U.S. to 140 billion yen in the 12 months through March 2021, from 120 billion yen in the year ended March 2016, Maekawa said.

Significant Expansion Capacity

Mitsubishi Heavy is also ready to add capacity to build more turbochargers in the U.S., where it opened a factory in Franklin, Ind., in 2015 after receiving an order from General Motors Co., Maekawa said. The plant produced 1.2 million units last year, he said.

“We have space to significantly expand our turbocharger factory,” the executive said. “If we can get the orders, we’ll expand it.”

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Forklift, which also makes remote-monitoring systems as well as diesel and gas engines, aims to boost its sales to 1 trillion yen in the year ending March 2021, a 41% gain from the 12 months ended March 2016, Maekawa said.

Most of the growth is being targeted for the turbocharger and engine businesses, whose revenue it wants to expand by two-thirds to 450 billion yen over the same five-year period, he said. The company expects sales in the forklift-truck division to rise about 4.5% to 460 billion yen over that timeframe.

Toyota Industries Corp., an affiliate of the carmaker, and Germany’s Kion Group AG are the world’s top forklift makers.

By Chris Cooper and Kiyotaka Matsuda

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