Part of Mitsubishi’s broader plans to strengthen its tenuous foothold in the U.S. market will include new plug-in electrified crossovers beginning next year and through the decade’s end.
The carmaker’s one U.S. plug-in is the i-MiEV pure EV, a converted Japanese kei car, vintage 2009, but that 62-mile-range city car loping along at less than 10 sales per month will not be replaced.
If things go to plan, the carmaker may have five U.S. market plug-in hybrids by 2020. First up is the enormously popular-in-other-markets Outlander PHEV. It’s due – finally – mid next year. Also pending is the Outlander Sport PHEV. Automotive News reports also three coming plug-in hybrid crossovers as variants of a revised pending lineup.
The Outlander PHEV has been promised to the U.S. and postponed before, and certainly the will by Mitsubishi to do more is there, but the resources have not been.
Mitsubishi now says it will reposition itself toward its perceived strengths.
“We are strong in SUVs and four-wheel drives. And that is what we would like to focus on as core models in the U.S. market. We have changed direction,” said CEO Osamu Masuko in a report by Automotive News. “We are going to allocate more resources to the areas where we are strong in the U.S.”
Its main focus is crossovers, but a subset of these are the aforementioned plug-in hybrid versions.
Among these is a new coupe-like PHEV crossover to slot between the Outlander and Outlander (above) is reportedly coming after fall 2017, and the redesigned Outlander PHEV after 2017.
The Outlander, itself still relatively fresh from a revision, has been a number-one seller in Europe and its delay to the U.S. has been blamed on things like battery supply, but Mitsu’s dealer network and position in the U.S. also had some wondering if they’d be pulling out.
Not intent on doing that, Masuko said other changes include several new models – the electrified versions will be alternatives within broader lineups.
Other things on the agenda include a refortified regulatory listening post in Washington, D.C., closure of its only U.S. assembly plant in Normal, Ill., and a new advanced technology office opening January in Silicon Valley.
The plan for the regulatory office is to facilitate better communicate between Japan and U.S. regulators, which have increasingly wielded influence in recent years. The Ilicon Valley connection will, among other things, keep stay in step with the move toward autonomous technology and artificial intelligence.
“The U.S. is a cutting-edge car market,” Masuko said. “There is much we can learn from being there. … I thought it would be good to send a younger generation of employees to learn from them.”
The carmaker will otherwise hold down the fort in the U.S. market with “big minor changes” Masuko said, as it likely shifts away from models like the Lancer and drops pure EVs for the time being.
Mitsubishi’s sales rose last year in the U.S. by 25 percent to 80,683 units through October as it rode a wave of demand from crossovers which constituted 58 percent of its sales.
Regardless how it has done in the U.S., from the i-MiEV – on the global market ahead of the Volt and Leaf – to its Outlander which Americans have clamored for, Mitsubishi has shown itself as ahead of the curve in its will, if not ability, to advance plug-in tech.
To Mitsubishi’s credit, despite the i-MiEV’s lame duck status, it was never a compliance car like some major manufacturers have chosen to do with their much-better-funded EVs, and this speaks to Mitsubishi’s mindset, and what it might do if it had the resources.
What other vehicles it may bring along may largely depend on the success of its current plans to revive and, if it succeeds, we will likely hear more on its goals of advancement on the plug-in front.