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Mitsubishi Takes Last Shot, Names New US Chairman

Will maker follow Suzuki out of the American market?

by on Nov.06, 2012

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is among the few new models coming anytime soon.

Mitsubishi Motors has named a new chairman for its struggling U.S. subsidiary, the first time that post has been filled since 2007 when the Japanese-owned maker was struggling for survival.

With 35 years in at the maker, Gayu Uesugi appears to carry the credentials needed in his new post, having worked at Mitsubishi’s Japanese headquarters overseeing product strategy and development and cost control.  The maker let costs run out of control over the past decade – in part with an ill-conceived marketing strategy that saw thousands of young buyers get a year’s free use of Mitsubishi products before handing the keys back to the company.

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With its U.S. market share at less than a half percent, analysts warn that Mitsubishi cannot long sustain a presence in the States without a major breakthrough.  The alternative would be to follow the example set by American Suzuki which has declared bankruptcy and will now stop selling cars in the U.S. market.

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Smart to Offer Market’s Lowest-Priced EV

Compact size, compact price.

by on Oct.05, 2012

Smart adds a bigger battery to boost range and performance with the 2013 fortwo ED.

Why aren’t consumers getting charged up about battery cars? That’s the question a lot of folks have been asking as sales lag well behind earlier expectations.

Range is clearly a concern, motorists worrying about being able to go – with most models – less than 100 miles per charge. But the big issue appears to be price. Electric vehicles simply carry too steep a premium for many potential buyers.

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That’s something little Smart hopes to address when it introduces what it is billing as the lowest-priced battery vehicle coming to the U.S. market from a major manufacturer. The 2013 Smart fortwo ED – short for Electric Drive – will carry a base price of just $25,780. (Not including a $750 delivery charge.)

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Consumers Fail to Plug into Electrics

A critical year for battery carmakers.

by on Jul.09, 2012

Slow to charge up buyers: the Ford Focus Electric.

There’s a growing supply but where’s the demand?  That’s the question industry officials are increasingly worried about as more and more battery cars enter a market that shows little sign of embracing them.

While sales of some models are up over year-ago levels, notably those of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, demand for others, such as the Nissan Leaf, have slipped year-over-year.  And still others, new to the market such as the Ford Focus Electric, are moving at such a slow pace they’re little more than rounding errors on the sales charts.

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Few now believe demand for plug-ins, in particular, will come near to meeting a target set by an Obama Administration that has strongly advocated alternative power – and backed it with billions of dollars in federal loans and grants to automakers and battery car manufacturers.

The President had forecast 1 million plug-ins would be on the road by 2015.  But “There is little evidence” that can happen, according to a new report by Pike Research, a Boulder, Colorado firm focusing on clean technologies such as battery power.

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Mitsubishi to Reveal Outlander Plug-in at Paris

Will feature permanent all-wheel-drive.

by on Jun.19, 2012

Mitsubishi will pull the wraps off a plug-in hybrid version of its next-gen Outlander CUV.

Mitsubishi plans to reveal its second battery car at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, a plug-in version of its Outlander crossover-utility vehicle.

The struggling Japanese maker only recently launched its i-MiEV battery-electric vehicle and appears to be betting that battery power is the key to improving its fortunes.

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“Neither a mere adaptation of an existing Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) – powered vehicle, nor a dedicated Plug-in Hybrid technology showcase, the New Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV (or “PHEV”) will share its architecture with the soon-to-be-introduced New Outlander’s ICE versions – an engineering feat in itself,” the maker said in a teaser news release.

A preliminary sketch for the customized Mitsubishi i-MiEV racer targeting Pike's Peak..

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Toyota Among Makers Charging Pike’s Peak Climb with Battery Power

Will battery cars stand up to the challenge?

by on Jun.08, 2012

Japanese champion Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima will be back at Pike's Peak but this time driving this Batmobile-like custom battery car.

It’s one of the world’s most challenging motorsports event, a climb to the 14,000-foot summit of Pike’s Peak.  And this year, a number of automaker’s will make the run in a way reflecting the otherwise pristine environment in the Colorado Rockies.

Toyota will be one of a number of manufacturers taking on the annual Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, on July 8th, using electric propulsion.  Also on tap will be at least two versions of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, one stock and one heavily modified.

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But perhaps one of the most threatening products to challenge the Peak next month will be custom-made electric vehicle under development by Japan’s Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima that looks like it had drifted off the set of the next Batman movie.

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Are Battery Car Sales Coming Unplugged?

Sales slide would be worse without new models.

by on May.03, 2012

Were it not for the new Prius Plug-in the battery car market might have come completely unplugged.

Is the battery car market losing its juice?  While it’s too soon to tell if the latest surge in gas prices has hit its peak buyers already seem to be rethinking the cost-benefit equation when it comes to plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles.

Indeed, were it not for the arrival of some new models, notably the Toyota Prius plug-in, the battery-car market might look like it was in risk of coming completely unplugged.

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Total sales came to somewhere just north of 3,600, industry analysts estimate.  The precise figure is hard to determine as Ford is not yet releasing numbers for its new Focus Electric, nor are smaller makers like Fisker Automotive and Coda providing data.

For the four makers that are providing sales numbers, the total for April came to just over 3,500, compared with 3,800 in March.  That works out to barely 0.3% of the total new vehicle market in April.

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EVs Unplugged?

Is the battery car a failure – or will the real test come in 2012?

by on Jan.03, 2012

Tesla's Model S will test market interest in battery-electric vehicles when it debuts later this year.

If the White House hopes to meet its ambitious goal of putting 1.5 million battery cars on the road by mid-decade it better hope that 2011 wasn’t a good indication of what Americans think of electric vehicles.

Add them all up, hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, and they accounted for little more than 2% of the U.S. automotive market last year.  Remove conventional gas-electric models, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid, from the equation and more advanced battery vehicles generated barely 20,000 sales.

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“I’d say they failed,” proclaims Joe Phillippi, chief analyst with AutoTrends Consulting.

For his part, David Sullivan, of AutoPacific, Inc., isn’t quite ready to go that far, but he sees 2012 as the really critical year.  The limited demand for electric vehicles, so far, has largely been driven by the early adopters, contends Sullivan.  “Now we’ll see if there’s broader consumer demand.”

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Which Are America’s Highest-Mileage Automobiles?

Hint: it begins with i (as in the Mitsubishi battery car).

by on Nov.21, 2011

The 2012 mileage champ, the Mitsubishi i, at 112 MPGe.

The long-struggling Mitsubishi has finally landed at the top of the charts.  In this case, the Environmental Protection Agency declaring the little Japanese battery-electric vehicle the most fuel-efficient automobile on American roads, averaging a whopping 112 miles per gallon equivalent.

That’s the Combined rating for the 2012 Mitsubishi i, which gets 126 miles in the federal government’s City cycle and 99 on the Highway.  The little battery car is currently the smallest and least expensive of the new crop of electric vehicles, carrying a price tag of $27,990 – before the $7,500 federal tax credit for high-mileage battery vehicles.

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As you might guess, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids dominate the 2012 rankings by the EPA, with the Nissan Leaf coming in second with a Combined cycle rating of 99 MPGe – which is designed to convert the power stored in a battery into its equivalent were the vehicle to be running on conventional gasoline.

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Five Green Car Finalists Revealed

Not all even have hit market yet.

by on Oct.24, 2011

Though it won't go on sale until December, Ford's Focus Electric is a finalist in the Green Car of the Year awards announced next month.

The first 2012 Ford Focus Electric won’t even reach buyers in California until the very end of the year but it apparently has had a significant impact on the judges for the Green Car of the Year, landing among the five finalists for the prestigious award.

The jury has chosen a mix of products that reveals the breadth of alternative powertrain market, with the finalists including a conventional hybrid, two pure battery-electric vehicles, a clean diesel and a natural gas-powered offering.

Along with the Focus Electric, the Green Car finalists include the 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas, the 2012 Mitsubishi i, the 2012 Toyota Prius v and the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI.

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“This year’s Green Car of the Year finalists underscore that there is no single solution to our transportation challenges,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and GreenCar.com “Here we have five exceptional answers to the question of how we’re going to increase efficiencies, reduce tailpipe and CO2 emissions, and decrease petroleum use.”

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Honda Earnings Tumble – But Mitsubishi Rides Out Quake With Rare Profit

Both makers anticipate earnings upturn over coming months.

by on Aug.01, 2011

Honda's earnings could rebound if new products like the next-gen CR-V catch on in the months ahead.

With some of its key models still in short supply in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Northeast Japan, few analysts were surprised when Honda Motor Co. reported a 90% plunge in profits for the latest quarter.

The real shock came from long-troubled Mitsubishi Motors, which rode out the impact of parts and product shortages to post a rare profit for the first quarter of the Japanese fiscal year, which began on April 1, just weeks after the natural disaster struck.

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Both companies – like most of the Japanese industry — are betting that as shortages are made up, earnings will steadily improve in the months ahead.  Honda, in fact, raised its full-year profit forecast, underscoring its confidence in a strong recovery.  But the maker has several critical challenges.  It has to get the new 2012 Civic into full production mode.  Its spring launch unfortunately coincided with the Japanese disaster and U.S. officials warn the new small car may not reach normal production levels until autumn.  Meanwhile, Honda has to hope there will be no more setbacks as it prepares to launch the next generation of its compact CR-V crossover.

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