Tony Principe said the plug-in hybrid SUV would attract a new buyer group and grow the model’s volume.
“We are looking at it as more of a cost saving, so if you look at PHEV compared to a petrol or diesel, what does it cost to cover 15,000km over a year? Can we get an economic [case]?” Principe asked.
Arriving in Australia in late March/early April, the Outlander PHEV is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine coupled to two electric motors in the front and the rear.
The petrol engine delivers 87kW and 186Nm while the two electric motors each generate 60kW (though that’s more likely to be around 25kW each in the real world).
It can drive roughly 60km in pure-electric mode (after a full charge) but otherwise manages around 5.3L/100km in series-hybrid mode where the petrol engine acts as a generator to charge the electric motors – at speeds of up to 120km/h.
Principe admits the PHEV’s market position and strategy all depend on the cost of petrol and a number of other factors. He believes that even most environmentally conscious buyers need more than just the ‘feel-good’ factor.
“[We need to] give it an economic rational. At the end of the day, Australians are going to say its environmentally friendly, but so what?”
Mitsubishi will position the PHEV above its top-of-the-range diesel Outlander, currently priced $46,790. The company claims there has been great interest from fleets, which is why it may launch the vehicle in numerous variants.
“People seem to accept a $2000-$3000 premium for the diesel, I don’t know whether you save $2000-$3000 [in fuel]. If you can basically get all the ducks in a row, you can say the diesel has this over a petrol and the PHEV has this over a diesel.”
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will be the first of many plug-in hybrid SUVs from the Japanese manufacturer over the next few years. The next likely candidate for electrification is the next-generation ASX, followed by the Pajero.