Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is planning an electrified-vehicle onslaught in North America, beginning with the debut of an EV in 2011 and followed by a plug-in hybrid in 2013.

The auto maker currently sells the i-MiEV minicar in Japan. To date, some 800 of the vehicles have been sold. It also has a demonstration fleet in California.

Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko announces the North American-bound EVs at the show, but declines to reveal details.

However, company spokesman Maurice Durand tells Ward’s the first vehicle will be the i-MiEV.

He says Europe will get the i-MiEV in 2010, after which it will launch in the U.S. Pricing has yet to be announced, but in Japan the vehicle has a starting price of ¥4.6 million ($46,930).

Masuko says growing interest in EVs in North America spurred the auto maker’s decision to launch its vehicles here. However, he warns, without a widespread recharging infrastructure, EVs likely will be relegated to niche status.

“For the growth of EVs in the U.S., expanding infrastructure will be even more critical,” Masuko tells the media. “We have conducted fleet testing with utility companies in California, and we will continue to partner with public entities that will support EVs as a means of transportation.”

Mitsubishi also provides a glimpse of what the planned PHEV will look like with the debut of the Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV at the show.

“We believe the PX-MiEV matches the needs of the North American market, and we plan to revamp the vehicle for release in North America by 2013,” Masuko says. “This vehicle will represent the most evolved result of Mitsubishi’s four decades of EV research and development.”

Meanwhile, the auto maker says it will offer the RVR cross/utility vehicle in North America next fall. The CUV already is on sale in Japan, but the name likely will change when it launches here, Durand says.

Additionally, Mitsubishi plans to bring a global small car to North America in the “near future,” but is mum on the details.

The focus on EVs and smaller vehicles is no coincidence, Durand says, noting there are no substantial changes for Mitsubishi’s larger vehicles, such as the Eclipse sports car and Outlander midsize CUV.

“From a marketing standpoint, compact (vehicles) are going to be something very near and dear to us,” he says. “We’ll be offering as many flavors as possible. It’s going to be the focus of brand.”

bpope@wardsauto.com