How cars became household appliances

TOKYO -- If you ever doubted the car’s devolution from crowning engineering achievement to humble household appliance, look no further than the latest marketing ploy in Japan.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is now selling its i-MiEV electric car through one of the country’s biggest electronics stores. A fitting fate for something run on batteries.

Bic Camera Inc. is a nationwide chain of multistory department stores that sell everything from televisions and computers to refrigerators and toaster ovens.

And starting this month, an electric car is also on offer.

Mitsubishi and Bic Camera are cooperating on displaying the bubble-shaped, four-seat i-MiEV at select outlets, organizing test-drive events and forwarding customers to dealerships. Bic Camera’s president said he hopes shoppers think of the car as just another appliance.

Pop in for a microwave, drive away in a microcar.

The i-MiEV went on sale in Japan last year, and the U.S. version is expected in late 2011.

But don’t worry. Americans might get similar one-stop-shopping convenience. Mitsubishi is reportedly exploring the possibility of marketing the car through -- where else? -- Best Buy.