Report: Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Delayed Again

Mitsubishi is having a hard time getting its Outlander plug-in hybrid launch off the ground, as yet another delay will postpone its arrival date in the U.S. California regulators requested that the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid come equipped with a battery monitoring system, according to Automotive News, to diagnose battery capacity and degradation.

“They think that deterioration of the battery might affect emissions,” product planning manager Tetsuya Tobe told Automotive News. Mitsubishi has known about the change since last year.

The delay follows an earlier battery-related hiccup, which pushed the Outlander plug-in hybrid’s launch to 2015. Limited production capacity from supplier Lithium Energy Japan in Japan prompted the delay, but factory expansion plans scheduled for April were projected to increase production capacity to 5000 monthly units. Mitsubishi is now working with California officials to incorporate the battery monitor into Outlander plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine with dual electric motors, one for each axle. The crossover has permanent all-wheel-drive, with the front axle driven by the gasoline engine when the battery is low.

Mitsubishi has sold 35,000 Outlander plug-in hybrid vehicles worldwide through March, since the crossover launched in Japan in 2013. “The current battery capacity can cover this year,” Mitsubishi electric vehicle business development expert Seiji Fuminashi told Automotive News.

Mitsubishi will now put off the Outlander plug-in hybrid launch in the U.S. until either late 2015 or early 2016. The change in schedule could put a dent in the company’s plans to double global sales to 48,000 units for this year. President Osamu Masuko has said he wants to increase sales in North America to 150,000 annual units by 2017, but yet another bump in the road will make that goal even more difficult to achieve.

Masuko is investing big in the future of plug-in hybrid models in the U.S. and abroad, as he pushes Mitsubishi toward hybrid SUVs and crossovers and away from its past focus on sports cars like the Lancer Evolution and the Montero Sport off-roader. On the bright side, the diminutive Mitsubishi Mirage is garnering unexpected popularity in the U.S., with 5116 vehicles sold this year through April.

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