Mitsubishi i: “Its Been An Invisible Launch”
The Mitsubishi i had its best sales month this past May, unfortunately that meant selling only about 80 copies, bringing the total cars moved off lots since its launch last November to 295. Put another way, no one is losing any sleep over it at Nissan, Toyota or General Motors.
Those 295 cars also represent a 1,700 unit shortfall over what Mitsubishi had intended on selling over the first six months. Elsewhere in the world, the 62 mile (EPA) all electric kei car has been more well received, with well over 16,000 sold.
Still, at $29,125, this car is the least expensive of all the electric cars by far, undercutting a car like the Nissan LEAF by $6,000. So why has Nissan sold thousands of cars while Mitsubishi has barely sold any? It could be range, as the i offers 11 less electric miles (62 on the EPA standard) than the LEAF. Others would say its the i‘s tiny size.
However, according to most Mitsu dealers, they would tell you it also has something to do with the advertising behind the car. As in, there isn’t any. Which is a fair point. Ask anyone about the car who isn’t a hardcore EV enthusiast, and they likely will have no clue what you are talking about.
“It’s kind of been the invisible launch,” said a West Coast Mitsubishi dealer who requested anonymity in an interviews with Automotive News (sub). “The car is very good, make no mistake about it. But there’s very little marketing support. Customers just don’t really know about it.”
Indeed, Mitsubishi has held the advertising budget it check. No Super Bowl promotion like that of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF for this car. And that is most likely because why advertise something you are losing money on. Mitsu themselves have admitted that they will be losing money on this car, perhaps as much as $8,000 a copy, for at least the first 24 months it is available in the US, putting most of the blame on the high value of the yen. Still, they have to promote the car at some point, so starting now, a print and internet campaign has finally begun…but no TV.
Mitsubishi’s online ordering/deposit system that launched in April of 2011 has taken about 400 orders for the car, with about 55% following through to deliveries.
With a new push for the little electric car, Mitsu hopes to finish the year out strong, relatively speaking. Masatoshi Hasegawa, executive VP of electric vehicle operations, says the company hopes to sell 2,200 to 2,400 but the end of this fiscal year (March 31, 2012). The car is now available in all states except except Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota, with a dealer participation rate of 75% overall.
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