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Mitsubishi left at the altar – again

Gallic i-MiEV: The Peugeot iOn - based on Mitsubishi's electric i-MiEV - will go on sale in Europe at the end of this year, alongside Citroen's version, the C-Zero.

Peugeot-Citroen scraps proposal to buy into Mitsubishi, but still wants to share EVs

Mitsubishi logo11 Mar 2010

MITSUBISHI Motors and PSA Peugeot-Citroen have called off their impending nuptials, but still plan to share more offspring.

While the two car-makers have canned a deeper alliance that would have involved Peugeot-Citroen buying a slice of Mitsubishi, they have signed off on a deal for Mitsubishi to supply 100,000 electric cars – based on the forthcoming Mitsubishi i-MiEV – to be rebadged as the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero starting late this year.

The companies had been in discussions since last year over a possible capital alliance that would have created another Japanese-European conglomerate, similar to Renault-Nissan.

But the scheme was scrapped after talks at the Geneva motor show between Peugeot-Citroen chief executive Philippe Varin and Mitsubishi president Osamu Masuko, with the French contingent seemingly getting cold feet over the prospect of propping up the Japanese motor company.

Peugeot-Citroën and Mitsubishi said in a joint statement that they would seek to expand their partnership, but "concluded that a capital alliance was not appropriate in the current circumstances”.

 center imageFrom top: The Citroen C-Zero, Mitsubishi i_MiEV, and Peugeot 4007.

Mr Varin told reporters his company did not want to enter into a capital alliance that might put its improved financial situation into question, and in particular harm its debt ratings.

“In terms of our debt and our borrowing power, it’s clear that whatever we do, the priority must be to preserve our financial solidity,” he said.

European reports speculated that Peugeot-Citroen had considered buying a stake of between 30 and 50 per cent of Mitsubishi, costing up to €2.4 billion ($A3.6b). The joint venture would have created the world’s sixth largest motor company with combined sales of about 4.4 million.

Peugeot-Citroen’s apparent decision to leave Mitsubishi at the altar is seen as more hurtful to the Japanese company, which has tried for years to find a long-term partner to help it compete with global giants such as Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Renault-Nissan.

Mitsubishi’s global sales have fallen by more than half over the past decade as the company struggled through failed relationships with companies such as Chrysler.

However, the product-sharing relationship Peugeot-Citroen will remain in place for now, with the companies jointly announcing this week that its electric vehicle (EV) deal – dating from a ‘framework agreement’ signed in September 2009 – had been finalised.

Production of the 100,000 EVs for Europe will start in October for a late 2010 sales launch and be sold 50-50 by Peugeot and Citroen. Neither French vehicle is likely to be sold in the short term in Australia, where the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is scheduled to hit the market in small numbers in the second half of this year.

Because of lithium-on battery shortages, Mitsubishi Motors is expecting to produce only 9000 units of i-MiEV this year, but hopes to double that next year to 18,000 before ramping up to 55,000 a year, shared between PSA and Mitsubishi.

Apart from the shared EV, Mitsubishi already supplies the Outlander-based Peugeot 4008 and Citroen C-Crosser twins for Europe, and the two organisations are building a shared factory in Russia.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi today announced an agreement with its Swiss distributor, MM Automobile Schweiz AG, and Switzerland's largest electricity provider, Alpiq Holding AG, to jointly promote i-MiEV in Switzerland.

The companies will work together to confirm the viability of electric vehicles and Japanese-developed quick-charger units in Switzerland.

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