OKAZAKI, Japan -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. aims to sell 2,000 units of its new i electric car in North America by April, the automaker's electric vehicle strategy leader says. The i arrives at North American retailers in November.
North American sales of the i, known in Japan and Europe as the i-MiEV, are then expected to rise to 20,000 units annually by the Japanese fiscal year ending in March 2016, says Yoshikazu Nakamura, senior executive officer of Mitsubishi's electric vehicle business office.
By then, Mitsubishi will have launched at least three electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles in the United States in addition to the i, he says. The first of those additional electrified models is expected to be a plug-in hybrid version of Mitsubishi's Outlander crossover, set to arrive in the United States by April 2013.
The electrified vehicles are part of Mitsubishi's plan to refashion itself as a global EV leader by launching eight electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles around the world by 2016. At this point, Nakamura says the U.S. market won't get all eight electrified vehicles, but he says at least four of the eight will be available for U.S. dealers.
Nakamura says the company's strategy is to launch versions of existing gasoline-powered vehicles with all-electric or plug-in powertrains, rather than creating new electric or plug-in nameplates from scratch, as Nissan did with its electric Leaf sedan. The i, for instance, is an electric version of a gasoline-powered small car on sale in Japan.
"We need the volume of the basic vehicles to minimize our costs," he says.
Mitsubishi expects to turn a profit on global sales of the i-MiEV during its fiscal year ending March 2013, when Nakamura says global i-MiEV output will hit 50,000 units.
But the U.S. model will be sold at a loss for the first few years. With a base price of about $28,000, the i is expected to be one of the least-expensive highway-capable EVs sold in the United States, a key part of Mitsubishi's strategy for the vehicle in that market, Nakamura says.
Mitsubishi's U.S. dealers began taking orders in April and have about 350 pre-sale orders from retail customers, Nakamura says.
The i arrives stateside in November, but the first i vehicles will be sold to fleet customers. Retail sales begin in January. Nakamura says the company expects sales of the first 2,000 units of the i to be split evenly between fleets and retail customers.
Last week, the EPA rated the U.S. version of the i at the equivalent of 126 mpg city and 99 mpg highway, and said it has a real-world driving range of 62 miles.