What happens when you're the first mainstream automaker to bring an EV to market after an eight-year absence of highway-capable, mass-produced EVs? Accolades a-plenty, lots of media attention and test-programmes worldwide. But what do you do when rival companies bring out a more versatile, more desirable model costing much less?
There is one choice. Drop the price.
That's the exact choice Mitsubishi has faced regarding the retail price of its all-electric four-seat 2011 i-Miev. An electric reincarnation of the Mitsubishi i, its small gasoline powered city car, the i-Miev packs better performance than its gasoline predecessor and is deceptively roomy inside despite only being a shade over 11 feet in length.
While the i-Miev has been in production since early 2009, Japan is the only country at present where consumers can purchase the vehicle. Throughout the rest of the world examples of the 2009 i-Miev are being used as demonstrator vehicles and test-fleet participants. Best Buy's GeekSquad are currently leasing one, and twenty-five participants in the U.K., including actor Robert Llewellyn and British motoring journalist Quentin Wilson are also paying to take part in a year-long lease trail scheme. Even the Birmingham Police in the U.K. have one.
i-MiEV Police Vehicle
Given the initial price of the car, that has been a blessing.
Mitsubishi's initial Japanese price for the 2010 i-Miev was $50,500 - over half the price of a new 2010 Tesla Roadster. Then, in April the price was cut to a mere $42,690.
But with the 2011 Nissan Leaf, a much larger car with an additional seat, greater range and higher top speed set to launch this year at $32,780 before federal incentives the i-Miev was still overpriced.
Mitsubishi have answered fears about the pricing by announcing its plan that it will drop the price by 1/3 by 2012. By then, Mitsubishi aims to have a new battery plant which it hopes will help drop the cost of the battery packs and churn out as many as 70,000 units a year.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV Electric Car for Geek Squad, 2009 LA Auto Show
While no formal U.S. pricing exists yet, there is still some question as to exactly what initial pricing Mitsubishi will choose for the U.S. market.
However, unless Mitsubishi can sell the i-Miev at a price closer to the expected retail price it will struggle to sell many vehicles when other cars exist at a similar price which appear more suited to the American consumer.