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Mitsubishi returning to Jaxport

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Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. in April will begin importing cars from Japan through Blount Island Marine Terminal for distribution throughout the Southeastern U.S., the Jacksonville Port Authority announced today.

The company plans to import about 15,000 vehicles annually of all Mitsubishi models and could double that number in the next few years, the port authority said.

Mitsubishi, which used to ship vehicles through Jacksonville before it moved those operations to Georgia's Port of Brunswick several years ago, becomes the first auto maker to leave Brunswick in favor of Jacksonville, the port authority said.

In 2004, Glovis America Inc., the logistics management company for Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors Inc., closed its automobile processing operations in Jacksonville and consolidated them at the port of Brunswick. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said the move would bring 130,000 Hyundai and Kia cars through the port in 2004.

Jacksonville-based American Port Services, Mitsubishi's Blount Island automobile processor, will prepare the vehicles to be sent to auto dealers. American Port Services President Jim Davis said his company has serviced Mitsubishi imports in Baltimore and Brunswick.

Roy Schleicher, senior director of trade development and marketing for the port authority, said the organization has wanted to bring Mitsubishi back to Jacksonville for a long time.

"We are very pleased to have Mitsubishi as a customer of the port again," Schleicher said.

He cited competitive pricing and access to an intermodal network as attractive assets for an auto maker.

Randy Casebolt, manager of National Port Operations for Mitsubishi Motors in Cypress, Calif., said the company is excited to return to Jacksonville, which he called "an excellent automobile port."

More than 530,000 vehicles were processed by port authority tenants and customers in fiscal 2004, making Jacksonville one of the largest vehicle handling ports in the United States.

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