Mitsubishi Is Quiet on Its Floundering Electric Car Plans

By · July 26, 2013

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Fewer than 1,500 Mitsubishi i-MiEV small electric cars have sold since its U.S. launch in November 2011. (Photo: Brad Berman)

While many automakers are issuing ambitious launch schedules for assorted plug-in electric vehicle models, Mitsubishi Motors is struggling to figure out what it wants to do.

In fact, PluginCars.com would like to give our readers an update on where Mitsu’s EV program in going—but the Japanese automaker won’t be able to provide that info until late fall, according to Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesman Roger Yasukawa.

“Our current Jump 2013 Mid-Term Plan runs through this fiscal year that ends next March,” he told PluginCars.com. “Therefore, we are just in midst of planning our future model line up including the EV, PHEV, and HEV vehicles.”
Given that it is generally a few years before we see models on the road after they are planned, Mitsubishi is unlikely to have much beyond its current line up to offer plug-in customers for the next few years.

The Japanese automaker, which a couple of years ago was seen as a potential EV leader, has faced rough waters with its first two plug-in electric models. The all-electric i-MiEV is cute, and fun to drive. But its costs nearly $30,000 and it reportedly delivers about 60 miles of driving range in real-world conditions, despite a claimed 80-mile range. Mitsu figured it would be popular as a second car, but only 1,470 i-MiEVs have been sold from the launch in late November 2011 through the end of June this year, according the company. To be fair, the November 2011 launch included only Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington. The model was not launched nationwide until late 2012.

Its second electric model, the plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander SUV, ran into trouble right out of the gate—when battery packs were found to be overheating. It was on the market in Japan, but after one of the plug-in SUV’s lithium ion batteries caught fire in a company factory, Mitsu in June recalled 4,313 Outlanders PHEVs as well as 17 i-MiEVs and 98 mini-cab i-MiEV variants that shared the same battery. The problem was traced to poor quality control at the supplier, Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between GS Yuasa Corp and Mitsubishi.

Now, the Outlander PHEV is scheduled for launch here in the U.S. in 2014. Despite the slowness in releasing a new EV launch plan, the auto maker is committed to the sector, said Yasukawa.

“While we would always welcome more sales, in general EV sales in the U.S. has been a gradual growth together with establishing the charging network but Mitsubishi Motors is committed in further development of our EV as you can see from our recent participation at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with our MiEV-Evolution race cars,” he said. “With the introduction of the Outlander PHEV (expected in US next year), we would expect to see growth in demand in EVs and PHEVs in the future as we continue to assess our future next-generation EV products.”

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