Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc.is hoping to bring its first electric vehicle to market for under $30,000 before federal tax credits, company officials say at the auto show here today.

The i-MiEV small car is due to go on sale in the U.S. in 2011. The ballpark price is similar to what buyers will pay for the car in Japan.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Wednesday announced it was cutting the i-MiEV’s price in Japan, reportedly from ¥4 million ($42,612) to ¥2.8 million ($29,828), including tax credits.

“We’re targeting sub-$30,000 for the U.S. when it launches,” MMNA spokesman Maurice Durand says of the iMiEV following Mitsubishi’s press conference at the show.

The i-MiEV went on sale at retail in Japan today, and Durand says it will launch in Europe this summer.

The i-MiEV’s price cut in Japan came one day after Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announced retail prices for its Leaf EV in the U.S., which goes on sale late this year, for $32,780. With a $7,500 federal credit, and a $5,000 EV credit offered by the state of California, the Leaf could cost buyers as little as $20,280.

Durand says many details of the i-MiEV’s U.S. retail launch still need to be worked out, including what company will supply and install the car’s home-charging units. MMNA is talking with several companies about the chargers.

AeroVironment Inc., supplier of the home charger for the Leaf in the U.S., recently told Ward’s its charger is compatible with any forthcoming EV, because its meets SAE standard J1772.

MMNA says at the show it expects the new Outlander Sport cross/utility vehicle to be the top-seller in the Outlander range after it hits the U.S. market in November.

The entry-level Outlander Sport, smaller than the current Outlander, should make up 60%-70% of total monthly Outlander sales of at least 3,000 units, MMNA CEO Shinichi Kurihara says.

The CUV, known as the RVR outside the U.S., bears the Outlander badging here because of the “brand equity” the name has earned in the U.S., Durand says.

Kurihara tells the media here Mitsubishi plans to get back into advertising with the Outlander Sport, including commercials on network TV. However, he still does not have details of the marketing campaign for the new CUV.

Kurihara also reiterates Mitsubishi’s plan to retail a global small car, possibly sized between the A and B segments, in the U.S. in 2012.