i sales make Mitsubishi wary of electrics
TOKYO -- The compact Mitsubishi Mirage could emerge as the Japanese automaker's next electric vehicle, after the disappointing sales of the zero-emission i.
Engineers designed the new global small car to accommodate an electric drivetrain, in lieu of its standard gasoline one, said Toru Iwata, the car's global product planner.
But a backtracking Mitsubishi now isn't sure whether it will introduce such a variant.
Last December, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko said North America would be getting an electric Mirage as early as mid-2013.
Rolling out plug-in hybrids and EVs is a key part of his push to rebrand Mitsubishi as a leader in electrification. The next step is the arrival of a plug-in Outlander crossover, expected to go on sale in the United States in early 2014.
But despite engineering the Mirage as EV-compatible, the company hasn't committed to an electric version just yet. Tepid reaction to the i is one reason for the company's hesitancy.
Last year Masuko floated the goal of someday hitting annual U.S. sales of 10,000 units for the i. It went on sale there last summer, but Mitsubishi sold only 366 through this July.
Future demand for electric vehicles will be closely watched before the company decides whether to go for an electric Mirage, Iwata said. It will also require a front-motor, front-wheel-drive system, he added. The i uses a rear-motor, rear-wheel-drive configuration.
Introduction of an electric version also depends on the reception of the gasoline-powered Mirage. Mitsubishi is still undecided about whether to bring the Thailand-built hatchback to the United States.
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