Exclusive: Mitsubishi's North American CEO Details New Electric Vehicle Strategy

By · January 27, 2011


The Mitsubishi i-MiEV on display at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Last week we heard that Mitsubishi—in an effort to staunch a sales decline and move the company into the future—is completely revamping its product strategy to focus on global platforms and electrified vehicles. The plan ambitiously calls for the introduction of six new electric vehicles by 2015, plus an unknown number of hybrids, and will entail a 30% increase in Mitsubishi's global research and development budget.

PluginCars.com reached out to Mitsubishi for their take on it and to get a bit more detail. What follows is an interview conducted via email with Shinichi Kurihara, President and CEO of Mitsubishi North America. According to Mitsubishi officials, the company is planning to announce further details in coordination with partners within the next six months and has held back in answering some of the questions below as completely as they could be answered.

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Mitsubishi North America President and CEO, Shinichi Kurihara.

NICK CHAMBERS: Given that this is such a big shift in strategy for Mitsubishi, what precipitated it? What market factors did Mitsubishi see that made it clear an aggressive electrification strategy was the right decision?

SHINICHI KURIHARA: The global automotive market is strongly influenced by environmental and growing regulatory factors. In the established markets of Europe, North America, and Japan concerns for vehicle emissions and the environment has helped drive the development of various technologies (hybrid, diesel, direct injection, etc) to help meet environmental challenges. The development of electric vehicle technology and the battery technology to support these vehicles helps the development of EV, PHEV and HEV vehicles that are the best guarantee to meet more rigid regulatory demands.

NC: This plan for six new EVs by 2015 clearly includes the i-MiEV and whatever vehicle results from the PX-MiEV. What other vehicles or market segments will Mitsubishi target with PHEV and EV offerings? Will they use the same underlying platforms developed for the i-MiEV and the PX-MiEV?

SK: There will be an aggressive product development mission aimed at developing these products for the timeframe. Without getting into the details of the product plan, we can expect to see EV, PHEV and HEV technology leveraged in the segments where we currently have offerings. The confirmation of these many new products and their specific timings-to-market will be released within the term of the Jump 2013 plan. [Note: Jump 2013 is the official name of Mitsubishi's new product strategy]

NC: 2015 is just around the corner. How does Mitsubishi plan on carrying out such an aggressive strategy in that relatively short span of time? Will the 30% increase in global R&D be enough?

SK: We acknowledge that the product plan will be demanding, and we understand that challenge. However, with the knowledge, data, and production lessons gained from previous and current EV efforts, we feel that the product cycle will be accelerated to meet these aggressive launch schedules. With the focus very squarely on EV, PHEV and HEV technologies, there are economies of development we feel can be achieved with efficient management of these programs.

NC: Will all of the EVs and PHEVs be targeted towards consumers? Will they all be available globally or will they target different markets? Will vehicles such as the Peugeot iOn and the Citroen c-zero count towards the 6 new vehicle allotment, or are we only talking about Mitsubishi-branded vehicles?

SK: While some of these vehicles are not intended for every market, and not all are consumer-focused models, I can confirm that the bulk of the EV/PHEV product plan relies on globally relevant vehicle classes implementing these technologies. While I cannot confirm exact models, it certainly would make sense to offer EV and PHEV versions of higher volume compact and subcompact models in all markets. The PSA variants do not count against the number of vehicles announced in the plan, and all but one of these are Mitsubishi Motors consumer-focused products.

Comments

· · 6 years ago

Well, 2015 is going to be interesting.

· Chris C. (not verified) · 6 years ago

Note: you meant "stanch" not "staunch".

http://www.google.com/search?q=staunch+stanch

And, preemptively, most mix up gantlet and gauntlet usage too :)

· · 6 years ago

Chris C., According to that same link, Stanch and Staunch can be used interchangeably, and frequently are. Some style guides say they are used differently and some say they mean the same thing. Same for gantlet and gauntlet. In ye olde days, what you say would be accurate.

The reality is that most people couldn't care less and it has no bearing on the content of the post.

· · 6 years ago

Man, I hope no one begins critiquing my grammar. I type so fast half of the time it looks like English is my second language!

Mitsubishi automotive has had some stumbles over the years, no question. But the their global small car concept looks good and their EV strategy is bold. The problem is they have lost so much market share in the U.S., distribution might prove challenging.

· Austintatious (not verified) · 6 years ago

I have been excited about the EV's coming our way from the Mitsubishi corporation, but my enthusiasm is cooling. It seems that Mitsubishi is partnering with other foreign based corporations to dig one of the world's largest open pit mines in the vicinity of Bristol Bay, Alaska, an endeavor that is shaping up to be an ecological travesty of almost inconceivable proportion. Before you consider purchasing another Mitsubishi product, please take the time to learn more about the corporation's involvment in this travesty about to impact some of the most beautifiul and ecologically vital parts of Alaska. My information comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council and other sources. You can google "Pebble Mine" or "open pit mine near Bristol Bay" for the relevant info. If you are offended, consider letting Mitsubishi know. Thanks.

· · 6 years ago

Austintatious:

Pebble Mine is low grade ore and up here we have copper we can't sell???

What gives!

· Austintatious (not verified) · 6 years ago

Canucnik:

I would ask you the same question. As you probably know, one of the corporate "partners"in the deal is Canadian megacorporation Northern Dynasty Minerals. I just recently found out about this thing, and I'm anything but well informed on the motives of the corporations in choosing the location or the deals that have been made between the corporations and the government agencies and others involved, but I think we can safely assume that NDM and these other corporate giants are making their decisions based on their so called bottom lines.

Maybe NDM has decided that dealing with Canadian labor is just too much trouble and that, with the near collapse of the U. S. economy and the scarcity of jobs south of the border, they'll find a cheaper labor in Alaska. Maybe they're expecting the average Alaskan laborer to have the IQ of, say, a Sarah Palin, and that they'll be pushovers for a hard nosed corporate management. Pebble Mine is projected to be both a copper and gold operation. What with the price of gold at ever increasing numbers, maybe that's the big reason.

My best guess is the extremely low tax return to the State of Alaska for mining operations, as opposed to oil and gas. That from Wikipedia.

Anyway, it sounds like an especially bad location for a mine like this one, in view of the toxins such an operation will put into the environment.

· · 6 years ago

Austintatious:

Worked in a Northern Nichol Mine (1 day) as a kid...Alaskans aren't greedy only their politicians are. Someone should make a huge arial photograph of the present enviromental damage in our North and Alaska and ask the Governor to explain the trade off. Oil, ya don't like it but can understand, we are going to re-open an old Lithium mine (and it's dirty) but the world is full of Gold and Copper at the moment!

· · 6 years ago

Excuse me that should be "Nickel" and "Aerial".

Alaska's perma frost is melting faster than anywhere else on earth!

· · 6 years ago

All Mitsubishi's projects look exciting to green car fans, but they have yet to announce what they will do to compete in the biggest segments of the market. I mean the Focus/Civic and the Accord/Camry. The i-MiEV is a subcompact, a certified niche vehicle in the US.

· Austintatious (not verified) · 6 years ago

Laurent:

I agree that there are some who simply won't entertain the idea of driving a vehicle that small, but I'm guessing that a subcompact like the i-Miev will have significantly greater appeal than a combustion subcompact simply because it's an EV. In other words, I think more folks will be willing to sacrifice the extra space, if the Mitsubishi technolgy is practical and reliable, just to move into the EV mode. And, since the i-Miev will be purchased for the short hauls rather than the longer trips, the smaller vehicles are likely to be more acceptable for those wanting to move away from internal combustion.

That said, I believe you're right in suggesting that larger vehicles will be a must for Mitsubishi.

· KeiJidosha (not verified) · 6 years ago

EVs work better when they are smaller and lighter. Better performance, and less cost (smaller battery). I am disappointed the iMiEV got the SuperSize treatment. I think it would have done better in it's original form, with a competitive price. Now, we will never know.

· · 6 years ago

@Austintatious,
You said "Anyway, it sounds like an especially bad location for a mine like this one, in view of the toxins such an operation will put into the environment"
My guess is that you probably wouldn't approve of any location for a mine like this one. Maybe that's why all of our minerals are coming from China and other places where they don't care about the environment and environmentalists can live in blissful ignorance of their existance and damage.

· Austintatious (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ ex-EV1driver:

Certainly, the world would be a better environment for all its inhabitants without such mines. Just as certainly, even we blissfully ignorant environmentalists understand the essential need for some mining operations; that said, unlike those who would afford the mining industry leeway to operate without meaningful regulation, we would prefer to see those mining operations performed responsibly and to avoid especially harmful mining techniques in or near environmentally sensitive locations.

I, for one, would make a distinction between locating such a mine in the middle of the Nevada desert and at this particular location near Bristol Bay, the potentials for environmental degradation and harm to animal and plant species being vastly different.

Of course, your contentions that "all of our minerals are coming from China" and that environmentalists live in blissful ignorance of, and don't care about, environmental degradation caused by mining operations in China or elsewhere around the globe are patently false and rather silly.

· Beacon (not verified) · 6 years ago

Compare this car to something similar in size and you will see a significant difference in price. I'm considering an EV, I'm not sure I'm willing to pay at least a $10k premium.

· · 6 years ago

Beacon: I'm pretty sure Mitsubishi is going to sell the iMiev for $30,000 in the US. After the $7,500 tax credit (hopefully it will be a point of sale rebate) you are looking at about $22,500. That may be a bit more than a comparable ICE, but not much. Once you factor in the lower maintenance and fuel costs, you will more than make up for the price premium over the life of the car, even if you factor in a battery replacement in eight to ten years.

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