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, 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 “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.”


· · 5 years ago

IMHO, Mitsubishi should have launched Outlander PHEV first. It would enjoy no competition for at least 3-4 years. It will have that 4WD/AWD CUV/SAV market all to itself. For people who needs AWD/4WD and the space of SAV, it will be the ONLY choice.

I think that is the next segament of the market that we need some serious choices...

· · 5 years ago

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· · 5 years ago

As it turns out, I will have the use of a Mitsubishi i for a couple of weeks in the late September to early October time period. Should be fun.

Mitsubishi never really advertised them and - even here on Plug In Cars - we could never get ANY of the article authors to post a photograph of the American version of this car (it's always a picture of the smaller Euro/Asian model.) Below is a link to a photo of the i that you might see on the streets of a US city or town. Notice the different front grill . . .

Priska . . . I'm about to take your survey. The link you put on another article here today was broken.

· · 5 years ago

Floundering plans? Let's see how the Outlander PHEV fares. It will cost less than the Volt and unlike the Volt it will have serious interior space and towing capability. Probably the first more or less affordable EV with serious family appeal and all round capabilities.

· · 5 years ago

What about putting an electric Mitsubishi Lancer size on the market in pure electric like Tesla or with a range extender like in the BMW i3?

· · 5 years ago

It's too bad MMC didn't advertise this car more - I've had my i-MiEV for a year now and love it! I drive it to and from work M-F - a 60 mile round trip. I don't have any problem with its range which most people see to be a huge negative but I don't find it a problem at all. This car is fun to drive, lots of room and easy to own. Lots of great deals on these cars right now as MMC is clearing the lots for the 2014 (2013 was skipped to clear out the 2012).

· · 5 years ago

@Chris O wrote: "Let's see how the Outlander PHEV fares. It will cost less than the Volt..."

Says who? The O-PHEV isn't due until next year, and I've heard nothing about pricing plans for the U.S. Based on what we saw with the i-MiEV, pricing in Asia and Europe tell us nothing about how Mitsubishi will price the product stateside. I also haven't heard how the EV range figures are holding up in the real world. Japanese market models were said to have about 30 miles available range in EV, but bear in mind they told us i-MiEVs would get close to 100 (i.e., their test cycle yields wildly optimistic numbers).

But I'll say this - if they deliver a CUV with an honest 25 miles of EV range that gets within $1-2k of the Volt, they've cracked the code. The Volt is too pricey for many households largely because it's too short on space to be an only car. An Outlander as described above, with full seating for five adults (no 3rd row seating because of the battery and rear motor) and ample cargo room, would be just as Chris O says - a broadly capable EV with serious family appeal, and a much better value than the Volt.

· · 5 years ago

Mitsubishi's attitude toward the i-MiEV remains, dare we say it, utterly inscrutable. They have no other BEV in the pipeline, they need ZEV sales in California, and the i-MiEV has already established a nationwide dealer and service network. Yet there has been zero advertising, not even to the extent of being mentioned in Mitsubishi's "Unpretentious" brand awareness TV ads. Given most casual observers' ignorance of the car's existence, no effort to counter Consumer Reports' over-the-top assault on the car, and a failure to offer a 2013 model in the U.S. (Canada got one), I just don't find it credible that, as this report claims, "Mitsu figured it would be popular as a second car". Indeed, I'm not sure that Mitsubishi even WANTED to sell more than the 1500 i-MiEVs it has. If anyone cares to claim otherwise, I would only ask "On what evidence?"

· · 5 years ago

Well, if you can read Japanese or be able to use google translate, then you can find some information on the Japanese version of the Outland PHEV.

That is a price around 4 Million Yen. Today's USD/Yen price is about 97.99. Let us use the 100 as the exchange rate, that is a $40k vehicle. Of course, MMC might purposely discount it for about $2-$3k to win over market shares against Volt. But that is a well appointed trim with Nav. I don't think it needs to.

Apparently, it has a 12KWh battery onboard. So, that should qualify for at least $5,625 Federal tax credit. Also, it is a 4WD and it has electronic tailgate and DC fast charger. Based on the battery, I am guess it has 20-25 miles EV range in EPA test cycle (with the battery limited to 80%) and possible to get 30 miles EV range for 100% battery usage.

You also have 2.0L and 2.4L option with 147 and 165HP each.

Even at $42k- $45k range (i3), I think it is very appealing. It is the ONLY 4WD PHEV on the market. Not to mention that it is the ONLY PHEV with DC quick charger... For people who want the all weather condition capability for things such as Tahoe Ski trip and the daily EV range, then Outland PHEV is the perfect fit.

I can't wait to try one out...

· · 5 years ago

@MMF: I share your enthusiasm for the O-PHEV, at least given what's on paper. And as sales continued strong in Japan even AFTER the battery scare, it sure seems to be holding up in the real world, at least in terms of the new car experience. I've been a bit puzzled about delays in the car's N.A. launch (MMNA could sure use it), but it's possible they're just trying to catch up with JDM demand and free up production capacity.

One thing I forgot to mention is that they've estimated hybrid mode economy at around 44 MPG. Even if that's off a bit, it's still a significant improvement over the Volt, and this is with an AWD midsize CUV with true 5 passenger seating, big SUV type trunk, etc. (adding to the mystery of how the Volt manages such unimpressive hybrid MPG - but that's another story). While the EV range is no match for the Volt's, it's still pretty darn useful (more than double the PriusPI's). And if you have CHAdeMO L3 available in your area, you can recharge (if you like) in minutes instead of hours - nice (I'm not sure I'd spring for CHAdeMO on a PHEV, but chacun à son goût).

The wild card's still the unannounced price. It's worth remembering that even before this spring's clearance sale, the i-MiEV was priced significantly lower in the U.S. than Europe or Asia, so one would expect they can at least bring the O-PHEV to the U.S. very close to that JDM price.

Basically, if Mitsu announces the O-PHEV is coming to the U.S. with a sticker significantly below $45k and you have a lot of Volts on your lot in December, I would recommend discounting them heavily. And if Toyota can't figure out a way to bring down the price of the Highlander Hybrid, they can count on that business falling off the proverbial cliff.

In the end, the i-MiEV's greatest significance might turn out to be its role in proving out the EV technology that would ultimately drive the Outlander PHEV. And as an i-MiEV owner, I'm very happy about anything that secures Mitsubishi's presence in the U.S. market. Keeping Mitsubishi mechanics trained up on servicing EV components is just icing on the cake.

· · 5 years ago

"one thing I forgot to mention is that they've estimated hybrid mode economy at around 44 MPG".

I seriously doubt that in the real world. That might be a Japanese cycle testing. Also, in so called "hybrid mode" of Outlander PHEV, it is still a question whether that is an EV depleted mode or a hybrid blend mode with still a fairly full battery.

"adding to the mystery of how the Volt manages such unimpressive hybrid MPG - but that's another story). "

I think that is very unfair to the Volt. Volt achieve a real world extended range MPG of 40 on the hwy. Only 1 or 2 MPG lower than the C-Max Energi and about 8-10 less than a Prius Plugin. The difference is simple. The extended range MPG is inversely correlates with the size of the battery or the EV range. Battery is heavy. Volt also comes with one of the MOST sporty setup, so there will be penality for its extended range MPG. Volt's battery is about the same size as the i-Miev. Performance is NOT free and weight is a penalty. That is exactly why Accord Plugin and Prius Plugin can both achieve the so called EPA rating of 48mpg to 50 mpg.

BMW i3 with REx will have even worse MPG in its REx mode with the engine on. 2.4 gallon and only 90-100 mile range with NO performance in that mode.

· · 5 years ago

As I hope I made clear, observations regarding the Outlander PHEV are speculative until the car's announced and tested. We don't really know price, MPG (in any mode), or EV range. So again, IF things line up anywhere close to what we're reading in these stories, the O-PHEV will be a very impressive package.

I don't care to be a Volt basher, as there's much about the car that I like (I was considering a lease when Mitsubishi repeatedly delayed delivery of my i-MiEV, but it arrived before I gave up). Even so, GM made a number of choices that either don't work for me or reflect priorities I don't share. Among other things, I was disappointed by the car's hybrid-mode MPG, especially after seeing so many videos of GM engineers giving talks in wind tunnels with test cars demonstrating the Volt's various efficiency-enhancing features. And as MMF notes, the Volt battery pack has the same capacity as the battery pack that moves my i-MiEV 60-70 miles (real world). Since Chevy makes so much of the Volt being the best of both worlds, an EV you can drive cross-country by refueling at gas stations, I think it's at least fair to note that its EV range is impacted by the weight of its inactive ICE hybrid powertrain, while its hybrid efficiency is compromised by hauling around the weight of its depleted batteries (as MMF acknowledges here), and the total package winds up being relatively expensive for the size and capabilities delivered. That's not to say that the Volt isn't impressive - it is. But given its "split the difference" mission, it should come as no surprise that it's possible to find a cost for every benefit, and vice versa. There are plenty of people that the car's tradeoffs do work for, and I'm glad that GM delivered a product to their liking, but it's obviously far from perfect.

If, in comparison with the Volt, Mitsubishi does deliver a product with 2/3 the EV range, equal or better hybrid mode MPG, at or near the price, but with the space and utility of an Equinox, that mix of capabilities would be more appealing to me - and I expect to many other potential buyers as well. Can they really do that? Again, until it's announced and tested, we just don't know yet. Writers have been extrapolating based on test results and prices in other markets, which I suppose is the best we have to go on for now.

· · 5 years ago

@MMF re: thoughts on the BMW i3/REx. Its designers obviously had a very different set of tradeoffs in mind, building an EV and adding a small generator to it. This is clearly not an optimal design for cross-country interstate cruising, but instead an EV that can be taken comfortably beyond its battery pack range without fear of being stranded. By your own numbers, the MPG sounds more like "much the same" as the Volt than "even worse" (100 mi. on 2.4 gal is better than 40 MPG, right?). I've heard speculation elsewhere about how awful the car's performance will be in REx mode, but I've not seen that confirmed by any road tests; my guess is performance will indeed be lousy if you want to pass someone on the interstate with insufficient battery reserve, but around town (where the REx will have plenty of time to replenish its "buffer" in stop and go traffic) I doubt it would drive differently at all. Outside of California, where its near-scandalous (in some circles) unrestricted access to HOV permits gives it an advantage some analysts have described as "market crushing", it's not clear how well these tradeoffs will be received. We'll see when it hits the market.

· · 5 years ago

I hope Mitsubishi has better luck with the plug ins when it comes to engineering. Most important is the economy of the vehicle over the life of ownership. This is where Mitsubishi fails miserably with convensional cars. They have driven into the ground by poor engineering and serviceability of their vehicles. Why would anybody want to buy such a poorly engineered car from Mitsubishi? They deliberately design in the need for special tools to remove components. Things like heater cores removal require the entire interior to be removed to get the part out. The dash board falls apart and then the dealer wants $1000 for the part. To get both these components replaced was $2300 from the dealer. Point is – When a Mitsubishi product has a KBB value of $4000 or less and needs this type of part replacement, the vehicle is beyond economical repair. Maybe most people have already figured this out and that is why Mitsubishi sales are in the toilet. Don’t buy any Mitsubishi product until they improve their engineering practices. Don't be the first on the block with one of their plug ins unless you live around helpful neighbors who can give you a ride when the car won't go. Last one out the door should turn out the lights. RIP Mitsubishi

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