Due to limited production capacity from its Japanese battery supplier Lithium Energy Japan (LEJ), Mitsubishi will delay the launch of the Outlander plug-in hybrid in the U.S. until 2015, according to Automotive News. The model first went on sale abroad in January 2013, and LEJ is currently in the process of expanding production to build enough Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid batteries for the U.S. market.
Compared to the measly 2,000 battery packs being produced monthly as of last fall, Mitsubishi is getting 4,000 plug-in hybrid batteries per month now that LEJ has moved manufacturing of the EV batteries for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to a separate plant. Capacity is expected to further increase to 5,000 monthly units as of April, when LEJ expands yet again. That will give Mitsubishi the number of batteries it needs to produce enough Outlander plug-ins for the American market.
“That means about 60,000 units annually for the plug-in,” Masuko said told Automotive News. “We can make only 30,000 plug-in vehicles this year. It’s going to be double.”
The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid will arrive in the U.S. two years after its global introduction, and approximately 18 months after the gasoline-powered Mitsubishi Outlander hit American shores last July.
As Mitsubushi chief Osamu Masuko previously explained, Mitsubishi is investing significantly in the future of plug-in hybrid models in the U.S. automotive landscape. With 11,300 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrids sold worldwide since the launch in January compared to 74,400 for the gasoline model, additional sales in the U.S. would do a lot to push volume and establish Mitsubishi as a manufacturer of efficient electric and hybrid models following the complete flop of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric hatchback.
The Outlander plug-in hybrid uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with dual 60-kWh electric motors, one positioned on each axle. Using only the aforementioned 12-kWh lithium-ion battery, the vehicle can travel about 34 miles before the gas engine kicks in. A 2.4-liter straight four making 166 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque powers the standard Outlander, which can be had with either front or all-wheel drive.
Although Masuko has steadfastly asserted his commitment to the U.S. market, the late arrival of the plug-in hybrid Outlander might prove be too little too late. Following the U.S. launch of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi will next introduce plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander Sport crossover and full-size Pajero SUV, which will likely reclaim the Montero badge, for the U.S. market by the end of the first quarter in 2017.