Mitsubishi delays US launch of Outlander plug-in hybrid to 2015

Article by Anita Panait, on December 30, 2013

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will launch the Outlander plug-in hybrid in the United States in 2015, two years following its global debut. The delay is due to bottlenecks in the manufacture of batteries. The Japanese carmaker is ramping up battery supply, but this will not be enough to commence delivering the Outlander plug-in hybrid in the US in 2014 as initially planned.

Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko attributed the delay to tight capacity at its main battery supplier Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Motors, GS Yuasa Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. Until this fall, Mitsubishi was receiving only 2,000 battery packs a month from LEJ since production is split between batteries for the Outlander plug-in and batteries for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

In September, however, LEJ shifted output of EV batteries to a separate site, thus freeing capacity at the first plant to build more batteries for the Outlander plug-in hybrid. As a result, Mitsubishi now can receive 4,000 plug-in battery packs a month, with an expectation to get 5,000 a month in April when LEJ further expands capacity.

"That means about 60,000 units annually for the plug-in," Masuko told Bloomberg in an interview. He said that they can build only 30,000 plug-in vehicles this year, and it will soon double. Mitsubishi started selling the gasoline version of the Outlander in the US in July. Mitsubishi started selling the Outlander plug-in hybrid in Japan in January and considers it as a key element of its bid to rebrand itself as a leader in electrified drivetrains.

Selling the Outlander plug-in hybrid in the US would help increase volume and cut costs, while providing the carmaker’s US dealers with a new offering to its already thin lineup. Mitsubishi has sold 11,300 plug-in Outlanders around the world since its January launch -- 8,100 in Japan and 3,200 in Europe.

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