In a revolutionary marketing tactic, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has signed an agreement with one of Japan's largest electrical appliance retailers to sell its new i-MiEV cars in its stores.

Bic Camera Inc. has started displaying the car maker's electric vehicle at four of its stores and is giving potential customers opportunities to test drive the i-MiEV.

The vehicle has proved so popular in the 16 months since it was first released that Mitsubishi Motors was forced to ramp up production to meet demand.

Mitsubishi initially predicted domestic sales of 1,400 units of the world's first mass-produced electric car in fiscal 2009, rising to 5,000 in 2010. Those figures were well short of demand, the company admits, and it sold 2,000 vehicles in 2009 and is now expecting to sell 9,000 in 2010.

Announcing the agreement with the car maker, Bic Camera President Hiroyuki Miyajima told reporters in Tokyo, "EVs can be considered a type of home electrical appliance."

"We hope to contribute to rising sales of the vehicle by letting more people know about it," he said.

Mitsubishi is also reportedly negotiating with another of the major discount electronic stores in Japan as competition heats up in the environment-friendly auto sector.

Nissan Motor Co. releases its Leaf EV next month - advance orders have surpassed the 6,000 level in Japan - while Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius has consistently been the best-selling car in Japan over the last two years.

Toyota has also announced this week that it will launch a new electric vehicle, based on its iQ ultracompact, in 2012. The company is also planning to release a hybrid version of the vehicle, to extend its range.

Toyota is also working to develop an EV modeled on its RAV4 sport utility in the U.S. market, in cooperation with Tesla Motors Inc.

Its electric concept car, equipped with a Tesla powertrain, will be displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show until November 28.

And given the growing demand among consumers for electric vehicle, The Japan Automobile Manufacturers' Association has announced that it will introduce an exhibition dedicated to EVs at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show, to be held in December next year.

The Smart Mobility City 2011 section of the event is designed to showcase "next-generation automobiles and the social systems with which they interact to highlight the roles and responsibilities of the automotive industry," the association said in a statement.



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