By Michael Bettencourt
Mitsubishi Motors Canada easily had the most news of any company at the show. But the big news was that they confirmed that the firm plans to sell the electric four-seat i-MiEV to the public. Still, it wasn’t quite the rock solid introduction one normally sees with regular cars: Mitsu Canada officials specified that the all-electric i-MiEV was “planned for sale in Canada in 2011,” leaving themselves a little wiggle room on timing or even whether or not to sell it here at all.
Mitsubishi Motors president Osamu Masuko made his first official visit to the show as head of Mitsu Japan for the press conference, one of the few international company presidents to make the trip. Then again, he also had more news to announce than any other exec there: he confirmed that a small SUV to slot in under the Outlander will arrive by the fall, that a new parts distribution building would be built in a new building near their Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, that a production version of the displayed mid-size PX-MiEV plug-in electric concept SUV would be on the road in 2013, and that a new electric car research program with Transport Canada will launch with the i-MiEV this year.
“This expansion of testing with Canadian partners will help bring the i-MiEV to the streets of Canada,” said Masuko at the show, without specifying whether they’d be sold to fleets or governments only or consumers as well next year. “Our plan is to launch electric vehicles in North America in 2011.”
Perhaps one of the reasons for this less-than-definitive confirmation of the i-MiEV’s upcoming availability is that the car in Japan has been criticized for charging entry luxury car prices for what is essentially a subcompact sized and trimmed out car. Another is likely the slower progress in Canada than in the U.S. on charging infrastructure, which when combined with Canadian winters and our more price sensitive buying patterns, may yet lead Mitsubishi to revisit the timing of these plans come 2011.
There were also relatively few details about the PX-MiEV, which is more understandable given that it’s yet three years away. Mitsubishi says that the PX-MiEV would combine extended cruising range along with increased performance over gasoline engine mid-size SUVs, without specifying whether it would also be an all-electric vehicle with larger batteries, or if it would offer a small internal combustion engine to recharge the battery, as on the Volt.