Aside from importing the i-MiEV electric minicar, Mitsubishi may also be giving U.S. dealers a gasoline version of the little four-passenger car. The i-MiEV would be competing against the Smart minicar. The Smart is imported from Europe, where Daimler AG builds it using a Mitsubishi engine.
The gasoline-powered i-MiEV is actually already being sold in Japan and Europe. It has a small turbocharged 660cc gasoline engine, which is a powerplant smaller than those in many American motorcycles.
For the US market, it's likely the gasoline engine would be replaced with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine without turbocharging, says John Koenig, executive vice president for operations at Mitsubishi Motors North America. The Smart has the same 1.0-liter Mitsubishi engine but that's where the similarities end.
The i-MiEV is 133.7 inches long, making it 2 feet longer than the Smart ForTwo as well as 5 feet 3 inches high. The i-MiEV is spacious, even for adults who are seated in the back seat.
Koenig estimates that a sales plan of 1,000 cars a month would most likely be adequate to convince Mitsubishi to re-engineer the minicar for U.S. customers.
The expense of creating a left-hand-drive version of the i already has been covered for its introduction into Europe, where it sells for about $16,000. Mitsubishi showed both the gasoline and electric versions of the car to journalists last week.