TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors Corp. says a new kink is delaying the U.S. launch of its Outlander plug-in hybrid until late 2015 or early 2016, even as it aims to more than double sales elsewhere this year.
The delay is to meet a new U.S. request that Mitsubishi equip the car with a battery-monitoring unit. That combines with a bottleneck in battery production to push the planned U.S. introduction into at least 2015.
The monitor would conduct onboard diagnosis of the Outlander's lithium ion battery capacity and output and alert the driver to possible degradation, Mitsubishi product planners said.
California regulators have requested new plug-in hybrids be equipped with the technology, and Mitsubishi is working with them to comply, said Tetsuya Tobe, manager of product planning. "They think that deterioration of the battery might affect emissions," Tobe said.
Mitsubishi has been aware of the request since last year.
Accommodating it will push the U.S. launch of the Outlander hybrid into the last quarter of 2015 or first quarter of 2016, he said.
At the same time, Mitsubishi plans a big sales push for the Outlander plug-in in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, markets that don't require the battery monitor.
Mitsubishi expects global sales to more than double to 48,000 units in the current fiscal year that began April 1, from 19,700 in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
Volume will get a boost from expanding sales to new markets in Europe, including Russia, and to Australia and New Zealand.
The four-wheel-drive crossover, formally called the Outlander PHEV, got off to a rocky start after its January 2013 debut in Japan. Sales were dented by a battery recall that forced Mitsubishi to stop producing the vehicle from late March until late August that year.