As headlines blare that Mitsubishi is being investigated for mpg misreporting in Japan, its Outlander PHEV has quietly become the fourth plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) to sell more than 100,000 units.
Launched in Japan in January 2013, the cumulative global milestone set in March places Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid in the company of other PEVs in the 100,000 club.
Namely, these are the Nissan Leaf launched Dec. 2010 which has sold over 218,000, Tesla Model S, launched June 2012, with over 120,000 worldwide, and General Motors’ Volt-based family at over 110,000 begun in Dec. 2010. Of this latter range of GM’s rebadged siblings, the Chevy Volt has held the lion’s share, with sales also coming from the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera, and Holden Volt.
Next in line is the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid launched in 2012 and with more than 75,000 but with sales trickling off since production ceased June 2015 in anticipation of the new pending Prius Prime.
High Ranking Sans US Sales
The Outlander PHEV has been a number-one best selling PEV in Europe and the UK and racked up its global sales without the help of the U.S. which until last year was the largest PEV market.
As a plug-in variant of a true SUV that’s off-road worthy enough that modified versions have been raced in rallies, the Outlander PHEV hits a comparable sweet spot in the minds of buyers.
While there are pricier alternatives now from Volvo, Porsche, and BMW, the Mitsu is a lower priced AWD five-passenger vehicle with electric range in the 20-30 mile range rendering it sufficient to make a difference for buyers wanting to minimize petroleum use day to day.
With help from sales tracker Mario R. Duran, we can report that a full two-thirds of the Outlander PHEV’s cumulative global sales – 66,000 – were in Europe.
Japan reportedly accounted for 33,741, and a trickle of sales came from Australia, with 1,500, and 300 in New Zealand through Dec. 2015.
Other sub-markets contributed to the tally as well, but in sum, the total is an estimated 101,900 through March.
The Outlander PHEV is due at the end of this year in the U.S., and to date Mitsubishi has not said a scandal under investigation in Japan has touched on vehicles in the U.S.
Reports did go out that U.S. EPA regulators have asked for further info, and the California Air Resources Board did too, but regulators have not said more than they are doing due diligence with no greater suspicion of Mitsubishi at this time.
The company’s president has however said the 625,000 or so Japanese kei-style minicars admitted to have had their mpg ratings altered by as much as 10 percent does threaten the company’s survival.
Meanwhile Americans are hoping the already-ailing company will pull through, and deliver the Outlander which has been promised to the U.S. then postponed more than once, and now another cloud is on the horizon for all of Mitsubishi Motors.
Onward and Upward
Speaking to a representative of the California Air Resources Board last week, we were told he personally hopes the Outlander PHEV does get here as planned.
His view echoes that of other pro-PEV supporters who’d like to see more mainstream priced plug-in cars introduced in the U.S.
The goal with Mitsubishi is to follow the Outlander PHEV with more PEVs this decade in to the next, and while it does not stand out today as a shining star, it is credited with one of the first EVs sold – the i-MiEV, and that vision continues to this day.
In November 2013, then-President Osamu Masuko said a plan to revitalize Mitsubishi called for 20 percent of its product offerings by 2020 to be comprised of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Masuko said research and development spending would be increased by approximately 30 percent to $812.7 million annually for the next three years.
This is a relatively significant commitment, and positive signs include the first EV, even if people denigrate it as lacking qualities of the likes of a Nissan Leaf, and the Outlander PHEV, which meets a need for a vehicle type no U.S. or Japanese automakers have yet put forth.
Meanwhile, the Outlander PHEV in itself is a relative success, and Mitsubishi says it will be in the U.S. this year.