Mitsubishi Promises More Plug-in Models, Again

By · August 12, 2016

Mitsubishi's xM concept

It’s reasonable to doubt that Mitsubishi will fulfill any announced plans for upcoming plug-in electric vehicles. After all, the past couple of years have been characterized by unconvincing EVs, product delays and a scandal involving systematic misreporting of fuel efficiency numbers.

Regarding unfulfilled previous plans, in 2011 the company said it would launch six new plug-in hybrid or electric cars by 2015. That plan did not materialize—and its Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV, which is popular in Europe and Japan, has still not yet reached American shores.

Nonetheless, a new Mitsubishi product presentation circulating the web indicates plans for plug-in hybrid and pure electric versions of a new crossover and perhaps two small EVs about the size of the i-MiEV. The presentation suggests these models could become available—although not necessarily in the United States—between 2017 and 2020.

The new presentation echoes what Mitsubishi said this month: that it would soon show an electrified crossover or “multi-purpose vehicle”, based on the xM concept—with the x standing for crossover and the M for multipurpose. The model has what Mitsubishi calls a Dynamic Shield front end, flared fenders and high ground clearance. By all appearances, it’s like a baby version of the Outlander.

In addition, Mitsubishi issued a press release in June promising a Grand Tourer concept that “expresses Mitsubishi Motors' plug-in hybrid electric flagship technology,” to debut at the Paris Motor Show in September. The press release played up the capabilities of such a vehicle to be taken off road, while offering a sleek design, quiet cabin, and comfortable long-distance cruising. Additional details about driving range or cost were not provided.

Customer Expectations

If news about a new small crossover plug-in receives a collective shoulder-shrug from American car buyers, it’s because the Japanese automaker has delayed the American debut of the Outlander several times. Add one more delay to the count when earlier this month, Alex Fedorak, Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesman, said: “Following a thorough evaluation process, we have determined that in order to meet a level of competitiveness that will exceed customer expectations in the United States, the launch of the Outlander PHEV will be delayed until the summer of 2017.” He said the delay will allow Mitsubishi to offer the model with better driving characteristic and more features. It’s not clear how these statements relate to announcements about the new concepts.

What’s confusing about Mitsubishi’s recent history is that sales of the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid have been brisk in Europe. The SUV looks like a winner. In fact, in March, Mitsubishi broke the 100,000-unit mark for global sales of the vehicle—making it the fourth most popular grid-powered vehicle in the world (behind the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and Chevy Volt). Over the past year, there have been several months in which the Outlander PHEV was the best selling plug-in hybrid in Europe—perhaps due to its compelling combination of decent size, respectable all-electric range of around 20 miles, and relative affordability. Three out of five Outlanders are hold as plug-in hybrids in Europe.

For about the past three years, the plug-in Outlander would have been the only electrified SUV on the American market. However, models such as the Tesla Model X and Volvo XC90 T8, went on sale this year.

While the diminutive small all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV has posted less convincing sales numbers in the US since its release in 2011, it has earned a small but loyal cadre of fans. In an approaching era when pure electric cars can offer 200 or more miles of range, the i-MiEV seems out of step with its small dimensions, cartoonish styling, and cheap interior—and most of all, its limited range of 62 miles on a single charge.

Like Volkswagen, which appears to now be gung-ho about EVs in the wake of its diesel-emissions scandal, Mitsubishi could finally make its plug-in plans a reality—after revelations in April that the company had systematically falsified mileage data about some of its Japan-market models for more than two decades. The fuel efficiency numbers were overstated by up to 16 percent, with little to no oversight from employees responsible for reporting on mileage. Mitsubishi managers said they were under intense pressure to keep pace with fuel economy numbers reported by its competitors.

Comments

· · 36 weeks ago

We seem to keep doing this - could you please point to a company press release saying the i-MiEV has been discontinued for the U.S. market? As far as I can tell, there isn't one.

The confusion over this seems to have started late last year when Mitsubishi said there would be "no replacement" for the 2016 i-MiEV, which many outlets misinterpreted as meaning the car was being discontinued. Mitsubishi was really saying that there would not be an updated model, no "2nd generation" or what have you, but as far as I know they've made no final decision on when to end production of the car. It is gone from the UK, but MMNA announced a 2017 for the U.S. (which I'd have thought would have ended this misreporting) and indeed list the 2017 model on their U.S. web site:

http://www.mitsubishicars.com/imiev

The car's never been easy to get hold of (not since its first year, anyway), but there are still new cars on lots, and it would appear you can still order them. The car's status in the market is obviously far from healthy, but as the old man in Python's Holy Grail insisted, "I'm not dead yet!"

· · 36 weeks ago

" . . . the one small EV that was sold in the US, the i-MiEV, is now discontinued . . . "

Sorry, Brad, but not true. This is an internet meme that got launched late last year and refuses to die. Didn't we have this discussion back in December? Let's please recap: we really did land on the Moon back in 1969, man-made climate change is not a hoax and - while it sells poorly - you still really can buy a new i-MiEV. :-)

Not only did the production of the 2016 model not stop at the end of this past year, Mitsubishi announced several months ago that a 2017 i-MiEV is now being produced and there is acknowledgment of it's existence and availability on the Mitsubishi Motors North American web site . . .

http://www.mitsubishicars.com/imiev#vehicle-stats

Some 3300 miles and 9 months later, I'm very happy with my used 2012 i-MiEV. Had I simply read the negative reviews back then and not had the chance to actually borrow one - and live with it for several weeks - in late 2013, I would have crossed it off my list.

With the federal tax credit, new i-MiEVs are among the most affordable of new cars . . . and certainly the most affordable EV available domestically. But the real bargains are the used ones that are coming off lease, which are to be found in the $6K to $8K range all over the country.

The Outlander PHEV? Yes, it does seem to be on a molasses path to get here. While I don't really care about this vehicle one way or another (a big high ground clearance SUV that's mostly gasoline power . . . yawn,) it's immanent introduction motivated the local Mitsubishi dealer here to get certified for factory EV service. When I had to get an airbag sensor replaced the other week (free factory recall,) I drove a mile from my house to get this done, instead of making the hundred mile journey I had previously planned on.

· · 36 weeks ago

Sorry about that. I get it now. Fixed. Thank you.

· · 36 weeks ago

OK, Brad, thanks for correcting the "i-MiEV is dead" sentence. It does seem, though, that most of the automotive press (to be fair, you're not the only one) just can't seem to find anything at all nice to say about this little electric runabout. Since Mitsubishi themselves are often mum on the subject, it really is left to that loyal cadre (vike, myself and about 2000 others) to do so. Although I was pleased to see this one just the other day . . .

http://autoweek.com/article/drive-reviews/imiev-we-test-worst-selling-ca...

I know we Americans have been collectively brainwashed to convince ourselves that we absolutely need a 6 passenger SUV with full off-road capability and 400 miles of gasoline-powered range to drive a few miles across town on our own to pick up the dry cleaning. But that tells more about who defends those practices than what a responsible lifestyle dictates. Small cars shouldn't be characterized as "out of step." We always hear sized leveled at the i-MiEV as a deficit. But it's curious that similar-sized gasoline vehicles - such as the Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit - are almost never lambasted as being "too small" in the automotive press. They're characterized as "economical" or "practical" . . . even though my cost per mile (not even factoring in typical ICE maintenance) is about a third of what my wife pays for gasoline for her 2007 Fit.

Speaking of the Fit (decent little ICE car, by the way,) or the Yaris, I wouldn't exactly call the exteriors on those sleek either. But isn't that the point on cars of this price class and utility? The i-MiEV may have a few unfortunate styling bulges, but the nobody is going to confuse the Fit or Yaris for a Z-28 Camaro either. These small cars - all of which over-perform on how their interiors are laid out for stuffing all sorts of bulky things inside, as well as 2 or more 6+ foot tall humans - are invariably going to take on a form factor of being awkwardly tall when compare to their length. But this is simply form following function. All small cars are ugly, compared to mid sized or larger ones. Attempts to make them sleeker on the outside are going to make them more cramped on the inside.

And "cheap" interiors . . . there was a guy from France who used to write articles for this site a few years ago who had a vitriolic hatred of hard plastic surfaces inside cars. What was that all about? From a real world livability perspective, I far prefer easy-to-clean harder plastics on the panels and cloth on the seats. I guess people who borrow cars for a few days to write about them and don't actually live with them for years at a time get all emotional about squishy plastics with a suede leather feel - and real leather itself . But that fashionista car reviewer stuff gets lost on the rest of us.

The only thing that the i-MiEV doesn't do well compared to the Yaris or Fit is go those longer distances non-stop. But let's compare the 63 mile-per-charge range of the i-MiEV - as is more often done - to the Nissan Leaf (a car that I have respect for and I could have just as easily aspired to, if the i-MiEV option wasn't available.) The battery pack in that one is a third again larger (24kWh vs. 16kWh.) yet it only yields another 10 to 15 miles of range. Given that metric, the i-MiEV is far more efficient. I'd like to see an i-MiEV with a 20kWh battery. One could imagine the range easily exceeding 100 miles per charge.

And, yes, you've got an extra rear seat in the Leaf and, for some, that's going to clinch the deal in favor of that car. But, with the rear seats folded down, the i-MiEV walks all over the Leaf in regards to useable hauling space.

· · 36 weeks ago

Benjamin - You make good points. If the relatively smaller size, lower range and generally cheaper feel on the inside works for you and your fellow i-MiEV drivers, that's great. The car works for you and reviewers (including myself) should have a greater appreciation and respect for the small EV that Autoweek notes as the "worst selling car in America." But of course, reviewers are duty-bound to explain its shortcomings relative to other cars that could be purchased for a similar price.

Besides, EVs suffered for many years with the stigma of being glorified golf carts and among all the EVs on the market today, the i-MiEV comes the closest to those old days--compared to the type of battery-powered cars available today with the features needed to appeal to the market. The name of the game for EVs is to put as many on the road as possible and, despite its charms and its appeal to small group of consumers, the i-MiEV will likely continue to be a very low seller. So, it probably makes sense for writers, including me, to lay off--and to celebrate the i-MiEV as being a different type of cool, an EV for real EV aficionados. We'll shift our editorial approach in this direction. Thanks.

(It doesn't help that Mitsubishi keeps making big promises and not fulfilling them, but that's fairly common in the auto industry.)

· · 36 weeks ago

“Benjamin - You make good points.”

And as usual, Brad, your observations are fair and reasoned. I’ll continue in a point-counterpoint fashion . . .

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Brad: If the relatively smaller size, lower range and generally cheaper feel on the inside works for you and your fellow i-MiEV drivers, that's great. The car works for you and reviewers (including myself) should have a greater appreciation and respect for the small EV that Autoweek notes as the "worst selling car in America."

Ben: Perhaps what really got under the skin of us i-meevers (is that an actual word?) was the infamous Consumer Reports slam from 2012 . . .

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2012/06/with-the-mitsubishii-mie...

One could spend more than a few paragraph picking this apart, but it’s probably not worth the time (check comments on the My i-MiEV Forum if you want to get into greater detail.) The residual effect, though, was a multi-year pile-on of bad “me too” i-MiEV write-ups from other journalists who probably never even drove the car. It did serious damage, as most of the 2000+ North American spec cars were sold before or while this was making the rounds. Sales basically tanked in 2013 and have never recovered.

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Brad: But of course, reviewers are duty-bound to explain its shortcomings relative to other cars that could be purchased for a similar price.

Ben: Yes . . . precisely. And that’s why it’s game to put the i-MiEV up against the Fit and Yaris, which really hasn’t been done in a formal write-up. All these cars are similar in price, form factor and luxury aspirations. The balance is the range of a small EV (potential deficit) versus the economy of operation per mile (the asset.) If traveling beyond 63 miles per day without an option to recharge is important, or it doesn’t exist at home for urban apartment dwellers, then the Fit and Yaris win. But if your daily driving needs are more typical (10 to 20 miles per day for me,) then the daily economy of operation and reduced long term maintenance expenses tip the hat towards the i-Miev. For those who really care about the environmental aspect of cars in general, the i-MiEV gets another positive mark.

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Brad: . . . EVs suffered for many years with the stigma of being glorified golf carts and among all the EVs on the market today, the i-MiEV comes the closest to those old days--compared to the type of battery-powered cars available today with the features needed to appeal to the market.

Ben: Well, “comes the closest” is a relative term. Fact is, in terms of crash safety ratings and amenities, the i-MiEV matches - and, in some cases, exceeds - the two other subcompact ICE cars I’ve been comparing it with. Some reviewers use that “glorified golf cart” line far too fleetingly and frequently, falsely insinuating that the little electric will kill all its occupants in a fender bender and, before everyone dies horribly at 30mph, lacking such basics as an AM/FM radio and air conditioning. We know that simply isn’t true. Please . . . let’s save the golf cart line for actual golf carts.

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Brad: The name of the game for EVs is to put as many on the road as possible and, despite its charms and its appeal to small group of consumers, the i-MiEV will likely continue to be a very low seller.

Ben: I agree that goal of putting as many EVs on the road as possible is very important. But let’s first realize that the annual median household (not individual) income in the US is around $53K and that the retail purchase price of a typical new car in the US is around $32K. It just so happens that my wife and I bring in just about $10K to $15K more than the $53K average . . . and I’m here to tell you, with all those real world debts we carry from month to month, we couldn’t even begin to contemplate a new vehicle purchase on the north side of $30K. We’d be laughed out of the bank by the loan officer for even asking. We also are both in the workforce (also statistically typical) and two cars moving at the same time in largely opposite directions is part of the equation. So, like most Americans, it comes down to a pair of used cars . . . both of them under $10K.

Turning this to electrics, even the two most affordable ones - the Leaf and i-MiEV - would be out of the financial question for me as new, even if I did qualify for all the federal tax rebates and lived in a state with meaningful purchase rebates on top of that (in Arizona, no to the latter . . . although EV owners here make out well on annual registration.) The 2015 phenomenon of all those first generation used OEM electric cars coming off lease is what made it possible for me. An informal survey of members of our local EV club - most of whom are also in the average annual income bracket - finds that I’m not unique here. The number of us who went from prospective buyers or enthusiasts to actual owners in the past year was significant.

So, the great under-reported story of the past year - and concurrently - is that clean, low mileage used EVs that can be bought for a song that still have lots of factory warranty coverage. The other important EV story of the past year - far more commonly documented - is the upcoming launch of the Chevy Bolt. Here, at last, is the 200 mile per charge electric that sells for the median new car average we’ve all been waiting for (I’ll get excited about the Tesla 3 when we get a realistic timeline on its actual availability.) The follow-on story 3 or 4 years down the road, when the first batch of Bolts come off of lease, is that actual median income earners will actually get them into their hands a 200 mile range EV. Let’s all hope a lot of Bolts will get leased.

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Brad: So, it probably makes sense for writers, including me, to lay off--and to celebrate the i-MiEV as being a different type of cool, an EV for real EV aficionados. We'll shift our editorial approach in this direction. Thanks.

Ben: Well, that would certainly be appreciated. Thanks in return. When I first got the i-MiEV 9 months ago, I observed carefully then how different the car was from a gasser. Now, I just get in and drive without even thinking so much that it’s darting electrons in battery cells instead of exploding hydrocarbons inside cast iron tubes that makes it go. When I do get back into an ICE vehicle again, like I did when we recently when we rented an automatic transmission truck for hauling some bulky furniture across, I’m now keenly aware of how awful it was before I was able to drive electric on a daily basis. (note to all OEMs: when are we finally going to get all-electric minivans and light trucks?)

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Brad: It doesn't help that Mitsubishi keeps making big promises and not fulfilling them, but that's fairly common in the auto industry.

Ben: My thoughts are that folks who are responsible for marketing the i-MiEV were either frustratingly underfunded or simply incompetent. If it’s the latter, I hope they all are eventually relegated to the ranks of the professionally obscure. No great love or focused hate is coming from me in regards to the Mitsubishi brand. They just happened to make the EV I could afford and actually buy outside of California.

The i-MiEV will certain fade soon, as the car is already gone in England and, just today, I’m learning that you can no longer get a new one in Germany . . .

http://pushevs.com/2016/08/14/mitsubishi-i-miev-no-longer-available-to-o...

It stands to reason that the recently announced 2017 will be the final iteration on these shores. When that day comes, there will be no ill will to see authentic “The i-MiEV is dead . . . no, really!” stories here and elsewhere. I just hope there’s another seriously affordable electric subcompact in the pipeline that will take its place. If not from Mitsubishi, then perhaps from the Chinese? Offer it for about the same $23K list (before rebate) and give it a real world range of 100 miles with a 6.6kW charger and we will have made progress.

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