Mitsubishi to End Production in the U.S., Sell Plant

July 29, 2015, 2:16 p.m.

DETROIT, July 24 (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp said on Friday it will stop building cars at a factory in Normal, Illinois, and seek a "strategic buyer" for the plant.

The company, one of Japan's smallest automakers, has faced declining U.S. demand and an expiring union contract at its only U.S. plant.

In a statement, Mitsubishi said its board will seek a buyer to keep the factory running and preserve jobs. The plant's roughly 900 hourly workers are represented by the United Auto Workers union.

Mitsubishi said it will continue to sell vehicles in the United States. The company on Thursday had declined to confirm a report by Japan's Nikkei news service that it planned to close the U.S. plant.

The Normal plant, about 140 miles southwest of Chicago, opened in 1988 as a joint venture between Mitsubishi and its then-partner, Chrysler. Mitsubishi took sole control of the plant in 1991.

The Normal plant is the only Japanese-owned U.S. auto factory whose hourly workers are represented by the UAW.

At its peak in the early 2000s, the Normal plant built more than 200,000 cars a year. Last year, production of the Outlander Sport utility vehicle totaled 69,178, according to Mitsubishi.