The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid will see its sales postponed in the United States, as the company faces a shortage in battery supply. The Outlander hybrid will now start American sales in 2015 instead of 2014 as originally planned.
Automotive News has reported that Mitsubishi had only been receiving around 2,000 battery packs a month from Lithium Energy Japan (LEJ), their main battery supplier. LEJ had split their battery production between the i-MiEV and the Outlander, effectively halving their production line. In September, LEJ separated their production lines, bringing the monthly production up to the normal 4,000 battery packs a month for the Outlander hybrid. Capacity will once again rise in April, when LEJ expands again, bringing the total production to around 5,000 battery packs a month.
“That means about 60,000 units annually for the plug-in,” said Osamu Masuko, President of Mitsubishi. “We can make only 30,000 plug-in vehicles this year. It's going to be double.”
The gasoline version of the Mitsubishi Outlander has been available worldwide, and the plug-in is currently available in Europe and Japan. However, sales on the plug-in have been slow due their limited production. Mitsubishi has sold 74,400 gasoline Outlanders worldwide, and only 11,300 plug-ins.
This is not the first snag for the Outlander hybrid, either. Battery issues have plagued the vehicle, first putting a temporary hold on production, and later forcing a recall. Around 4,000 Outlander hybrids and i-MiEVs had to be recalled because of battery cell damage.
Regardless, Mitsubishi plans to expand their hybrid production. In addition to the upcoming release of the Outlander plug-in for the United States, the company has announced that they are planning plug-in versions of the Outlander Sport and Pajero by 2017. According to a Mitsubishi spokesman, the company is open to other partnerships for battery supply.
Mitsubishi is hopeful that the Outlander plug-in will rejuvinate US sales. The company falls under the Mitsubishi Group, a large multinational conglomerate comprised of numerous business ventures. Their automotive sales have been lackluster in the past few years, leading to a heavier focus on electric and hybrid vehicles. With the Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid already available in Japan and Europe, the company will count on healthy sales to boost their worldwide profitability.
The future of Mitsubishi vehicles in the United States will rely heavily on the Outlander hybrid. The electric i-MiEV has been unsuccessful in sales, forcing several price drops on top of the existing federal tax credits. The Mitsubishi Outlander hybrid is scheduled for US release in 2015, two years after its global debut.