Don wrote:If they had the slightest misgivings about selling them here, why not save a ton of money, lots of time and trouble and just import the same version of the car that they are selling everywhere else?
The JDM version of the i-MiEV would not meet American crash standards. The car is longer for U.S.-spec bumpers, and wider to create enough space between front seats and doors to allow side airbags to deploy (ever notice how far away those dinky stock armrests are from your elbows?). As has been discussed elsewhere, it would have been a good idea to go with bigger wheels while they were at it, as the stock tires can barely handle the added weight of the batteries, but it wasn't strictly necessary, so they gave that a pass. Given Mitsu's interest in electrification (where they feel they have significant advantages) and attributes that made the i a suitable BEV platform (a small efficient RWD package tall enough to accommodate batteries under the passengers), the mods were worth it considering the alternatives. No other BEV option was feasible within the time frame, e.g., a BEV Lancer would have been about as competitive as a Coda, and the Mirage is packaged all wrong.
What happened after the project was green-lighted is anybody's guess, but it does seem a cavalcade of bad breaks. Masuko now seems to think the company's global future is in electrifying (BEV or PHEV) C/SUVs, not micro cars, so I'm guessing there was a change of heart some time before the i-MiEV launched in NA. Cold feet undoubtedly went icy when a spike in the yen forced a last-minute price increase, especially after Mitsu realized that Nissan was pricing the LEAF more aggressively than expected. The overpriced SE/Premium packages did less to improve overall margins than to undermine the car's perceived value quotient, especially (and critically) among reviewers.
At this point it looks like the "We've already spent the R&D money, may as well price 'em to sell" camp has won the internal argument (at least for now), bringing the car back with a simplified (and far more attractive) pricing structure, presumably one that at least covers unit manufacturing costs. But with Outlander PHEV sales apparently constrained by the supply of the same batteries that power the i-MiEV, the question now may be one of availability. Gone are the days of insisting that certified dealers hold a couple of i-MiEVs in inventory, obviously, but the new car may even be a strictly ship to order proposition. And hanging over the whole story is the cloud of Mitsu's plummeting U.S. sales, exacerbated by the highly questionable move of taking the Outlander PHEV to Europe first. While I take Masuko at his word that Mitsubishi can't be the company it wants to be without North American sales, he could be overtaken by circumstances; I've no idea how much longer dealerships can be expected to hold on with the current product mix. So for the i-MiEV, availability of dealers might wind up being an even bigger problem than availability of cars.
I guess we'll know more in a few months - and more still next year.