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Mitsubishi i-MiEV has run its course

Job done: Mitsubishi says the i-MiEV did its job as an EV trailblazer Down Under, but admits that it was not particularly suitable for the Australian market.

Pioneering i-MiEV peters out in Oz as Mitsubishi switches EV focus to Outlander

7 Jun 2013

MITSUBISHI’S pioneering i-MiEV electric car has run its course in Australia and the company is now looking to new-generation models that will be more appropriate for this market.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) corporate communications manager Caitlin Beale told GoAuto that the slow-selling electric city car is no longer a priority, with none being imported and only a few remaining available in its dealer network.

“We’re realistic that it’s not the kind of car that Australians really enjoy,” she said, pointing to its utilitarian Japanese ‘kei-car’ roots that restricted its physical dimensions and have made it hard to succeed in Australia with a $48,800 sticker price.

“It doesn’t suit our market, and it’s not well received by our market ... and the reality of it is that people have range anxiety, as they call it, and obviously (problems with) its cost – it’s a $48,000 car when you can buy a Mirage for $11,990.

“So it is not a focus of ours at the moment.

“We can bring one in, if people want to order it. But we’re now really waiting, and gearing up for, (Outlander) PHEV – which is the next step. We’ve moved on to this next step.” The latest VFACTS figures show that Mitsubishi has not sold a single i-MiEV this year, despite the company strongly denying in January that it had dropped the EV from its line-up.

As GoAuto reported at the time, MMAL registered virtually all its remaining i-MiEV stock in December last year – around 80 cars – and pushed them into dealerships across the country.

GoAuto understands that most of these have since been sold off cheaply at dealer lots.

After arriving in 2010 and becoming available to the general public in August 2011, i-MiEV sales are now pegged at 250.

Around half of these went to the original ‘foundation customers’ who signed a three-year lease plan for the vehicle, with the remainder similarly taken up by corporations and government departments looking to trial, or make a statement with, an electric vehicle.

Although the i-MiEV was welcomed as the first mass-produced EV on the Australian market, participants in the Victorian government’s EV trial – the mid-term report of which was released this week – found it to be less satisfying to live with than newer models such as the Nissan Leaf or a conventional-engine alternative.

According to the report, size limitations were cited as an issue, although more significant were “perceptions of it being a less safe vehicle” by some trial participants.

Ms Beale said the i-MiEV had served its purpose as a “learning exercise” and that the experience had put the company and its dealer network in a good position to manage the forthcoming Outlander PHEV, which is now due for release here in the first quarter of 2014.

The plug-in hybrid compact SUV had been scheduled to arrive this year, but Ms Beale confirmed that battery overheating problems detected in March, which subsequently ground production to a halt in Japan, had pushed out the Australian launch by at least six months.

“It’s about to go back into production but they will of course satisfy the recalled vehicles first, and then already-ordered European cars, so we’re a little bit back in the queue,” she said. “It’s also been unprecedentedly popular in Europe, where their orders far outweigh their supply.” As for the i-MiEV, Ms Beale said: “It’s done its job.

“It’s helped in market research and government initiatives, and just the understanding for service requirements and electric vehicle needs. So our dealer network is now ready for the next stage.”

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