Mitsubishi Motors, the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in Japan and seventh largest in the world, has 90 years of success in building cars. The company hit a rough patch several years ago, but has turned it around by eliminating unprofitable models and focusing on emerging markets from Thailand to Ukraine.
Now Mitsubishi will continue its revitalization plan by launching eight plug-in and electric vehicles by 2015. The plan follows up on Mitsubishi’s 2009 rollout of the I-MiEV, a 5-door compact hatchback car that is currently sold in Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, the UK, and starting next month, in Costa Rica. With the I-MiEV’s growing acceptance comes a more ambitious plan for Mitsubishi to entrench itself both in emerging economies and stay competitive in the hybrid and electric auto industry.
Mitsubishi’s plan to increase its greener automobile offerings ties in to the company’s environmental program. If the plan succeeds, Mitsubishi will not only decrease carbon emissions at its factories, but throughout its automotive line as well. More components made out of recycled materials will be installed in its automobiles, and the company aims to make its supply chain more energy efficient and eliminate more hazardous materials.
One of the new models already confirmed is the Minicab MiEV, a small commercial vehicle that will use lithium ion batteries manufactured by Toshiba. Another model will be an SUV manufactured in Russia, and other models will be built abroad by partnering with European and Chinese companies.
Much of Mitsubishi’s “greening” of its automobile product line and the company’s operations is not yet released, but the company’s strategy over the next few years is logical. Assuming the cost of fossil fuels increase in price over the next several years, and markets in regions like Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia continue to witness a growing middle class, Mitsubishi’s approach could be spot on. Small countries will be even more vulnerable to energy price shocks, yet at the same time, consumers who have the spending power will desire new and innovative cars. Whether these economies can support the infrastructure necessary for electronic cars is one question. Another scenario that could upset Mitsubishi’s plan is if the price of rare earth metals, which are crucial for electric car batteries, rise to the point that the manufacture of these cars is no longer cost effective for Mitsubishi or its customers. Whatever the outcome may be, Mitsubishi’s push to build more electric and hybrid cars is another reason for electric car fans to be excited.