Plug-in pundits have long been puzzled by the sorry sales of Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV. Starting at $22,995, it’s the cheapest EV in the US market, it’s available throughout the country, and it has sold well in Japan and Europe. Why hasn’t Mitsubishi managed to move more than a handful here?
Some speculated that the Japanese automaker, after years of losses, was planning to pull out of North America altogether. However, the company has seen a remarkable rebound this year, increasing sales by 20 percent and forecasting a profit for the first time since 2007.
CEO Osamu Masuko recently told Automotive News that, far from pulling up stakes, Mitsu plans to bring a couple of new models to America as early as next year. “We are trying to introduce new vehicles,” he said. “We aren’t thinking of withdrawing whatsoever.”
First on the list is the Outlander PHEV crossover, which has the potential to be a huge hit stateside. The Outlander PHEV has taken off in Europe – MMC plans an annual production rate of 50,000 by the end of 2014 – and the California Air Resources Board is considering changing its ZEV rules to allow manufactures like Mitsubishi to earn more credits from PHEVs.
The Outlander should arrive between October 2015 and March 2016. Its US launch has been delayed by a battery bottleneck, according to Masuko, but battery capacity should increase to 60,000 units next year, up from 50,000 this year.
Further down the road, Mitsubishi will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the next-generation Outlander Sport, and possibly the Montero (known as the Pajero elsewhere in the world). “We are putting our emphasis on SUVs in the United States,” Masuko said. “So we have to think about introducing the next-generation Pajero to the United States. There’s going to be a PHEV version.”