2012 Mitsubishi -MiEV
Mitsubishi, like any auto maker, is never keen on admitting when they have misjudged the market, especially when that error is still being offered for sale.
Today, while speaking at the Sydney motor show, Mitsubishi Motors president, Osamu Masuko, continued to blame everyone and everything but themselves for poor i-MiEV sales around the world.
While reflecting on Australia's lackluster i-MiEV sales, Mr. Masuko said:
"The European market, which is a big market (for EVs), is suffering badly and the second reason is the high Japanese Yen.”
In Australia, the i-MiEV starts at $48,800 ($50,760 USD). This year Mitsubishi has sold 14 i-MiEVS, and if you think that number is low because the car is fairly new to the market, you would be wrong. The i-MiEV was one of the first plug-in vehicles available down under. Last year the company sold an uninspiring 19 units.
Peugeot iOn, Couson Of i-Miev And C-Zero
For Europe, the i-MiEV has competition from its own sister cars, the Peugeot iON and Citroen C-Zero. Sales of the pair have become so anemic that Mitsubishi had to halt the production line of the two cars back in August to "adjust to market demand." As of today, production has still not re-commenced. The Peugeot/Citroen deal was expected to net at least 100,000 i-MiEV based cars, but with only 1,800 being sold in the first half of 2012, that is going to take about 27 years (give or take) to happen.
So how to prop up sales? According to the company, it is apparently by moving away from the i-MiEV (and all electric cars), and into the extended range hybrid business:
“To solve this issue, our resolution was PHEVs, which accommodate the issue of cruising range, which now achieves 800km and also the infrastructure because using the petrol is actually generating the electricity, so I think we are accommodating those issues.”
Mitsubishi says that their upcoming Outlander PHEV is that answer to slugglish plug-in sales with an electric range of 34 miles, and a total range of 550 miles packaged in a 4wd SUV offering.
Unfortunately, Mitsubishi is wrong here again.
While offering an extended range plug-in hybrid does indeed solve some issues holding back sales, the problem for Mitsubishi in this case is money...and we are pretty sure they know it, as Mr.Masuko also briefly offers that, “the customer is recognizing that the price point is important (as well as) the infrastructure and the cruising range.”
As for the i-MiEV, range anxiety is a very real hurdle to selling the car in a high, or even mainstream level volume, however the i-MiEV is far from even being considered a niche product at this point.
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, is not priced competitively in any market in the world, mostly thanks to Nissan's willingness to sell the LEAF at a loss while they try to solve a bad currency exchange on their own Japanese made EV.
In Australia, the Nissan LEAF sells for $51,500, only $2,500 more than the i-MiEV. For the US, the comparison is a little better at $29,975 for the Mitsu against $36,050 (both figures include destination). However, Nissan sells their EV discounted from the MSRP for much less in the US, while Mitsubishi does not.
Osamu Masuko Talks Up Extended Range Outlander PHEV (Shown Here Plugging In Concept SUV Earlier)
It now looks as if Mitsubishi is trying to distance themselves from the i-MiEV, as they are realizing that these past 2 years have actually been the good times for the minature 62 mile EV.
While Mitsubishi has been standing still, Nissan has moved all its LEAF production for international sales away from Japan, and the expensive yen currency exchange. Both US and UK production will be starting imminently.
This new international production for Nissan, as well as a new 'stripper' version of the LEAF (that more closely resembles the features in the much smaller i-MiEV) is enabling Nissan to slash the pricing in 2013 to levels as low (if not lower) than the i-MiEV in many of its markets.
Our translation of Mitsubishi's Osamu Masuko's chat with the media today: "the i-MiEV is now on life-support, and we are just warning the family that the end is near."
If Mitsubishi does not start building its electric cars outside of Japan, the end is near for all their plug-in vehicles.