Japanese importer Mitsubishi plans to have its electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, on sale in Australia by late this year or very early in 2010, according to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited CEO Rob McEniry.
Mr McEniry told a media briefing in Melbourne today that the i-MiEV, which has already passed through the Australian Design Rules (ADR) certification process would be on sale here in very limited numbers.
He said that could mean as few as 20 vehicles initially. CarAdvice drove the i-MiEV in Adelaide earlier this year and we found it to be in every respect a very normal city car. The vehicle currently has a range of about 160 kilometres on a single charge.
“The thing is we will have it on sale here, it is on sale in Japan, and we want to show the market that i-MiEV is a proper working car that people can buy and drive every day,” Mr McEniry said.
He would not be drawn on the issue of price for the vehicle, which sells in Japan for the equivalent of about A$59,145, but attracts a government subsidy of almost A$18,000.
Mr McEniry said Australian customers had indicated they were comfortable with a price of “something in the order of Prius plus,” referring to the Toyota Prius, which currently sells for $39,990 in base form.
He also indicated that Mitsubishi would almost certainly only lease vehicles to customers, a practice being proposed by a number of EV makers, who want to provide customers with the strongest possible economic protection as they move to the new technology.
Mr McEniry said he had been talking with the production team in Japan about supply of the vehicles for this year and it was only expected that a very small number would be initially available.
“However, going into next year we will be able to get increasing supply as the company y ramps up production and gets on top of the initial demand in Japan,” he said.
Mr McEniry said that initially Mitsubishi wanted to educate the Australia market about EVs and as more manufacturers moved into the field, it wanted to be at the forefront of the market.
He said the company was examining the infrastructure needed to support EV use in Australia and was negotiating to get at least one fast-charge unit placed in major Australian capital cities.
Questioned about just who would buy, or lease, the vehicles initially he said that while there had been strong interest from government and similar bodies there had been “extraordinary interest from private buyers.”
He said Mitsubishi wanted to get the car into private ownership, rather than have it in the hands of government and business users, as it believed this would have a greater impact in spread the message about electric vehicles.