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Electric car to battle against global players

MITSUBISHI Motors Corp's electric vehicle is twice as expensive as popular hybrid cars by rivals Toyota and Honda, but Japan's No. 4 auto maker said yesterday the i-MiEV will help it survive increasingly intense global competition.

"With the electric vehicle, we will challenge global players," said Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko at a news conference. The company unveiled the i-MiEV yesterday at its headquarters in Tokyo.

The i-MiEV is powered solely by electricity, and can be recharged from a regular home socket. The four-seater vehicle can run up to 160 kilometers after charging seven hours at 200 volts.

"It is a zero-emission vehicle. It does not rely on oil, which is different from hybrid cars," Masuko said.

The price tag is also different. Mitsubishi's i-MiEV costs 4.59 million yen (US$47,560), more than twice as much as Toyota Motor Corp's new Prius, which is just over 2 million yen, or Honda Motor Co's Insight, which starts at 1.89 million yen, the cheapest hybrid on the market.

Masuko acknowledged the high price is a major hurdle to encouraging people to buy the i-MiEV.

"This is not the price that ordinary people can easily buy. But as we increase our production, we aim to cut the price below 2 million yen," he said without elaborating further.

Masuko said Mitsubishi had spent more than 40 years to develop the i-MiEV. He declined to say how much the company had invested in its development.

It expects to sell 1,400 units, mostly to local governments and companies for the current business year to March 2010. Sales to individual consumers in Japan will begin in April 2010.

The company aims to sell 250 units abroad, mainly in Britain and other European countries, in the current financial year.

Mitsubishi also plans to sell the i-MiEV in China and the United States, but Masuko gave no details.


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