Production of Mitsubishi’s Outlander plug-in hybrid crossover and a variant of its i electric car has been suspended after it received reports of one lithium ion battery melting at a dealership while another battery caught fire in an assembly plant. The incidents took place on March 18 and 21. Sales of these two models in Japan have also been suspended.
However, sales will continue in the U.S. and other markets while Mitsubishi is working to find out if the battery problems affect i electric vehicles. Offered just in Japan, the Outlander plug-in hybrid is set to arrive in 2014 in the U.S.
Mitsubishi spokeswoman Namie Koketsu said that this battery glitch won’t cause a delay in its launch in the U.S. Koketsu also said that the cause of the problem and the affected models haven’t been figured out yet but the company expects production to resume after a few weeks.
The automaker revealed the problems last Wednesday and is presently considering if and how to issue a recall. Koketsu said that Mitsubishi made the announcement before issuing a recall to immediately let consumers become aware of this for their safety.
These incidents would adversely affect the automaker, which is prioritizing EVs as it works on rebranding itself as an eco-car leader.
These mishaps would also be bad news for the Outlander plug-in hybrid, which has reported strong sales in Japan and is the first vehicle to make use of Mitsubishi's new hybrid technology. On Jan. 24, the Outlander plug-in hybrid went on sale in Japan.
So far, its sales have reached 4000 units – almost double the total sales of the standard gasoline-only Outlander, which has sold 2,500 units in Japan since it started selling there in October. These battery problems call to mind issues of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which had its worldwide fleet grounded due to overheating lithium ion batteries. The same company supplied the battery packs to Boeing and Mitsubishi.