LOS ANGELES -- Following big price cuts by other automakers to stoke demand for electric cars, Mitsubishi said it will reduce the sticker price of its slow-selling i-MiEV electric car by 20 percent for its upcoming model year.
The 2014 model year i-MiEV will start at $23,845 including shipping when it goes on sale next spring, representing a $6,130 reduction from the starting price of the 2012 model that preceded it. After a $7,500 federal tax credit afforded to electric car buyers, the i-MiEV will start at $16,345.
Mitsubishi also added more standard equipment to the pint-sized i-MiEV for the 2014 model year, including aluminum wheels, a quick-charging port, rear-door speakers, heated front seats, heated side view mirrors and a leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob.
The move follows similar EV-price cuts made earlier this year by Nissan, General Motors and Ford. A Mitsubishi spokesman said that the i-MiEV's starting price of less than $17,000 after tax credits would make it more competitive with not only other electric cars, but gas-powered subcompacts as well.
"The EV and the general subcompact landscape has changed with various models being introduced, including the Mirage, and after evaluating the market condition we've decided to position the i-MiEV pricing competitively within the subcompact segment" the spokesman said Tuesday in an e-mail. Mitsubishi's Mirage small car went on sale this fall with a base price of $13,790, including shipping.
EV price battle
Already a slow-seller, the i-MiEV's prospects in the U.S. market were all but gutted in January when Nissan cut the price of its Leaf EV by $6,400. The reduction brought the Leaf -- a larger, more comfortable car with a bigger battery and more driving range than the i-MiEV -- down to $29,650, compared to the Mitsubishi's $29,975 sticker.
Nissan lowered the Leaf's price for the 2013 model year. But with plenty of 2012 model year i-MiEV's still in inventory at the beginning of 2013, Mitsubishi bypassed the 2013 model year for the i-MiEV and continued to sell-down 2012 models.
Mitsubishi responded by temporarily offering dealer cash incentives of up to $10,000 per unit and low-payment leases earlier this year to boost i-MiEV sales. The spiffs helped, as i-MiEV sales in the first quarter hit 625 units, more than four times the number of i-MiEVs sold in the same period a year earlier. But monthly i-MiEV sales plummeted soon after, with monthly sales exceeding 100 units only once since March. Mitsubishi sold just 12 i-MiEVs last month, with year-to-date sales of the car totaling 1,018 units through November.
Meanwhile, competitors have been busy whacking EV price tags to lure more customers to their own high-priced alternative vehicles. Nissan moved first with its $6,400 price cut, while Chevrolet lowered the sticker price of its Volt plug-in hybrid by $5,000 in August. Ford then cut $4,000 from the Focus Electric's price in September, while Chevrolet and Fiat began offering cheap leases on the Spark EV and 500e this summer.
Lower prices helped Leaf sales more than double this year to 20,081 units through November, compared to 8,330 units in the same period last year.
Mitsubishi declined to provide a sales target for the i-MiEV.
Said Mitsubishi's spokesman: "We would like to sell as many i-MiEVs as we can and hope this reduction in pricing will attract more EV buyers towards our brand."