Mitsubishi Kills i-MiEV Small Electric Car, Prepares Plug-in SUVs

By · December 17, 2015

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi announced last month it will no longer sell its i-MiEV electric hatchback in the United States, ending a five-year run characterized mostly by disappointing sales. Despite high hopes dating back to 2011 when it was released, and the lowest price among EVs, Mitsubishi managed to put fewer than 2,000 units on the road.

Even before the car hit the market, reviewers complained that the i-MiEV’s range was lower than the advertised 62 miles. In fact, under real world conditions, the i-MiEV’s range drops to 50 miles or less—if heat or air conditioning is required, or if driving into a headwind. Between its disappointing range, diminutive size, cartoonish styling and cheap interior, the i-MiEV was not well-suited to American car buyers. (The car fared better in Japan, where it serves as a small city car for short-distance drivers.)

Getting Real with Bigger Cars

On the heels of a financial turnaround, Mitsubishi is positioning itself to compete in the segment where it performs best: SUVs. In an interview with Automotive News, Osamu Masuko, Mitsubishi’s chief executive, said his company will launch three SUV models by 2020. New generations of the Outlander and Outlander Sport, as well as a yet-to-be-named new model, will fit in between its two current platforms.

The company promises that eventually all three platforms will house plug-in hybrid or EV powertrains. For the time being, Mitsubishi is preparing to offer a plug-in model it first promised for 2013, but after repeated delays will finally introduce in the U.S. in the coming spring: The 2017 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid.

The Outlander PHEV has been on the market in Japan and Europe for nearly three years, but Mitsubishi said demand was too high overseas to allow expansion to America. There were also technical hiccups that delayed the model’s arrival in the U.S., even as the SUV became the top-selling plug-in in the UK.

Pricing for the plug-in crossover hasn’t been announced, but if it lands in the $40,000-$50,000 range (before tax incentives), the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid could be well positioned in the market. Drivers pining for an electric crossover otherwise must spring for expensive luxury offerings like the Volvo XC90 T8, BMW X5 xDrive40e, or $130,000 Tesla Model X.

The Outlander will carry a 12 kilowatt-hour battery pack and an official range in the ballpark of 30 miles. Two 50-kW motors drive the axles individually and can take the SUV up to 75 miles per hour on electric power alone. A 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine supplements electric power or replaces it when the battery is depleted.

These capabilities, and the lack of competition for SUV plug-ins, means the Outlander has the potential to attract far more buyers than the i-MiEV ever did.

By 2017, Mitsubishi plans to add its new SUV model, at some point with a plug-in option. Then, in 2019, a larger, next-generation Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is due—as well as an electric-only version of the smaller Outlander Sport.

This line-up of robust Mitsubishi plug-in SUVs could help the company finally realize its electric ambitions in a way that the diminutive low-range i-MiEV—placed in an increasingly crowded market of capable EV hatchbacks and sedans—never could.


· · 2 years ago

How disappointing. I have both an imiev and a Model S; I much prefer to drive the imiev on trips the range allows. It's size is more appropriate to many of my tasks, it is easier to get into and out of, it is easier to navigate tight spaces, it's performance is adequate. Even though I have Mits dealers within 30 miles, I had to go 200 miles to actually buy an imiev. Amusingly, I used the Tesla along with SuperChargers to get the imiev home. Repeatedly regenning/towing about 30 miles and then driving 30-50 miles. Reading old PR, I noticed the imiev was supposed to have an optional 22kwh battery which never appeared. So, it appears Mits has purposely failed to improve this car, made it generally unavailable, and finally killed it.

· · 2 years ago

"Mitsubishi announced last month it will no longer sell its i-MiEV electric hatchback in the United States . . . "

Really? I'd be interested in seeing an actual press release from Mitsubishi stating this. What I've heard from other sources is that a successor to the i-MiEV isn't being planned, which would imply that
the car will live on . . .

I'm now the happy owner of a used 2012 i-MiEV with less than 18K miles, which I purchased last for just under $7K. One month and ~500 miles later, no regrets. The car is ideal low carbon transportation for
most city dwellers.

· · 2 years ago

@Benjamin - You're right. The report in Automotive News uses mild language to say that "there will be no replacement" for the i-MiEV:

But at the end of day, when you combine very meager sales and an aging platform (especially in a segment where automakers need to keep up with expanding range) it's the same thing. If anything, it's death by neglect. Ironically, when a car is discontinued, it becomes something of a cult product with a devoted following among those who love it and keep its legacy alive. There are devoted fans of the Pontiac Aztec and AMC Gremlin.

I love my second-gen Toyesla RAV4 EV even more because only 2,600 were made and ever will be made. That might not be enough for me to buy it after my lease is up, but now that's its fate is sealed, I have greater appreciation for the 120-mile all-electric SUV.

Enjoy the i-MiEV. Regardless of how many or few are sold from here on out, it can provide great service for local trips and it occupies a cool spot in automotive history.

· · 2 years ago

OK, Brad, thanks for confirming this. But that basically makes
the entire premise of your article - at least the title and opening
paragraph - factually incorrect! :-)

Far too many of these "The i-MiEV is dead" pieces have littered the internet in recent weeks and it's amazing to see them continue to proliferate. All it took was for one "reporter" to misread and inflate the original story a few weeks ago and everyone else followed along like lemmings. That nobody is checking original source material anymore
is kind of a sad commentary.

All cars eventually get discontinued . . . even ones that were immensely
popular in their day. I don't doubt that the i-MiEV - which Mitsubishi seems to hate almost as much as the car's detractors - will someday disappear. But if there is nothing in the pipeline to replace it, who is to say that they won't skip to the next nearest even-numbered model year
for 2018 and soldier on? My prediction is that we'll see an announcement like that from Mitsubishi about a year from now. Right now, of course, they're peeing their pants in anticipation of finally selling their big plug-in SUV here.

The real i-MiEV story that should be told today, though, is that clean low mileage examples, like mine, are coming off of their original 3 year leases and are proliferating on dealer lots, much like 1st generation Leafs. The financial stumbling block for most middle incomers in regards to electric car ownership was the high purchase price of new examples, despite the fact that daily operating costs are far lower than an ICE . . . even with current $2 per gallon gas. Those who care more about the health of the planet than what they pay for "ISIS hair tonic" at their local Seven-Eleven will be even more pleased.

· · 2 years ago

I agree, but the craze of the little cars will not be affected according to me. Good to hear for the electric system in SUVs too. Hope to be the best.

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