Mitsubishi Motors Corp's i-MiEV electric car is proving so popular with consumers that the company is ramping up production for the Japanese market and actively looking to roll the vehicle out in other countries.
The i-MiEV, the world's first mass-produced electric car, hit the market here in July and Mitsubishi predicted domestic sales of 1,400 units 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.
"People are very interested in zero-emission cars right now and we also benefited from the government's eco-car purchase incentive programme," Tetsuji Inoue, a spokesman for Mitsubishi, told Relaxnews.
Under the scheme, the Y4.599 million (€37,302) retail price is reduced to Y3.209 million (€26,028), making the vehicle far more attractive. Many private companies and government offices have invested in the cars.
Price has been the biggest hurdle for Japan's number-four automaker to overcome, with other companies releasing environment-friendly vehicles that are much cheaper. Toyota Motor Corp.'s latest Prius hybrid, for example, costs around Y2 million (€16,221) and Nissan Motor Co.'s electric car, the Leaf, is expected to be cheaper when it goes into mass production in 2012.
To meet the immediate growing demand, Mitsubishi will triple annual production of the i-MiEV in the fiscal year that starts on April 1 and aims to turn out 18,000 units in 2011 and 30,000 in 2012. The ultimate aim is for 100,000 cars to roll off production lines every year.
Around 250 i-MiEV cars have been sent abroad, primarily to Britain and Hong Kong, where they are being used as demonstration vehicles for the technology.
Earlier this week, however, Mitsubishi Motors (UK) announced that the i-MiEV will go on sale in Britain on January 1, 2011, with a price tag of £38,699 (€43,176), although the government's Consumer Incentive Scheme will knock £5,000 off that total.
Mitsubishi has also delivered i-MiEV vehicles to Monaco for testing, is operating a fleet of the cars at Frankfurt Airport and has signed memoranda of understanding with companies in Switzerland and Canada for the cars to be put through their paces in those markets.
On February 4, the car was awarded the Environment Special Grand Prize at the 25th International Automobile Festival, held in Paris, just the latest in a series of awards the vehicle has won.