Mitsubishi Plagued By Faults, Recalls Japanese Plug-in Cars

By · June 05, 2013

Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi is officially recalling its Japanese-market 2013 Outlander plug-in crossover SUV, as well as various i-MiEV electric subcompact models. To eliminate any risk of battery overheating in affected cars, the company is recalling 4,313 Outlander Plug-in Hybrids, 17 i-MiEV electric subcompacts, and 98 minicab i-Miev variants.

Mitsubishi will replace the entire battery pack of affected cars in its home market of Japan. The company is focusing on domestic cars, but said that about 50 i-MiEV cars overseas will also be recalled. This could include U.S. market cars, although Mitsubishi said most of the affected cars are in Europe, where the Mitsubishi i-Miev is sold as the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero.

This follows Mitsubishi suspending shipments of the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid in March, after shipping about 4,000 units of the plug-in Outlander, as well as 68 i-MiEV vehicles fitted with potentially faulty batteries. In early February, Mitsubishi Motors U.K. officially launched the gas-powered version of the new Outlander crossover S.U.V., promising that the forthcoming plug-in hybrid version will arrive in the U.K. by June. The plug-in S.U.V. is expected in the United States in 2014. The model is capable of about 30 miles of all-electric range, and another 250 or so miles using internal combustion. It can travel at speeds up to about 75 miles per hour strictly using electric propulsion.

Mitsubishi started its investigation into battery overheating in March,
after a 2013 Outlander plug-in hybrid suffered a battery fire in a company factory. Another car experiences a partially melted battery pack caused by internal short circuits.

Mitsubishi traced the problem to poor quality control and mishandling procedures at its battery supplier, Lithium Energy Japan—a joint venture between battery specialist GS Yuasa Corporation and Mitsubishi. GS Yuasa supplies batteries to Boeing, which had to ground its 787 Dreamliner earlier this year after on-board lithium-ion battery pack caught fire.

As Automotive News reports, incorrect battery screening—in which excessive force was applied to the cells—caused some battery cells to internally fracture and short-circuit. In addition, poor handling practices by workers, such as occasionally dropping battery cells on the floor, increased cell failure rates.

Mitsubishi said it is now confident that new measures, including a revised cell screening process and better quality control monitoring, have solved the battery pack problems.

While the majority of U.S. Mitsubishi i cars appear to be unaffected by this recall, the recall isn’t good news for Mitsubishi's reputation, and will make it difficult for the company to increase sales of its electric vehicle from its current low rate. In 2012, Mitsubishi sold 588 units of the i-MiEV. That rate has been on the rise in 2013, with 843 units sold of the electric subcompact sold this year through May.

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