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A little less than a year ago, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance held a digital conference to discuss a new business strategy over the next few years. The original six-year plan, Alliance 2022, was grounded in electric vehicle technology, self-driving vehicle technology, and investing in many startups where the Alliance could benefit by adding features to vehicles using the products those startups develop. When COVID-19 hit, many manufacturers shut down, and many businesses, including small businesses and start ups took quite the hit. Needing to bounce back in a competitive industry, the Alliance shifted its focus back to the technology already available to the group. With Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi Motors having had success in various fields, they just needed a new vehicle to get going again.
That new vehicle might be a new electric minicar recently announced by Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan. Also known as a “kei car” in Japan, where it will be initially sold, the vehicle is going for less than 2 million yen, or $18,400. Maybe a little larger than most minicars, almost like a mini hatchback, this unnamed electric vehicle (EV) can drive more than 124 miles, or 200 km, before needing to recharge. Depending on its success, other trims falling to the mid-1-million-yen (~$14,000) mark might be possible to account for lower budget consumers.
Anyone who remembered the Mitsubishi i-Miev may be wary about this new minicar. The little EV from Mitsubishi Motors didn’t fare so well in the U.S., but over in Japan, kie cars make up 40-percent of all sales in the country. Moreover, even if the unnamed EV minicar were to make it to North America, it wouldn’t be until this kei car is a multinational success. After all, it’s not just Mitsubishi Motors taking a gamble.
The EV platform the minicar is on could be the same cross-brand Nissan was developing a year ago. During the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance press release, many other electric vehicle technologies were being developed, including the E-body core system of the electric-electronic architecture by Renault, and new e- PowerTrains (ePTs) by Renault and Nissan (CMF-A/B ePT – Renault; CMF-EV ePT – Nissan). Any one of these could be powering the new minicar, meaning more than one automaker has a stake in this.
We’re talking about gambling and stakes because when the Alliance discussed the mid-term plans, one of the highlights was the new business strategy. Described as a “Follow-the-Leader” type of strategy, one of the three automakers would take the leap and introduce a new vehicle to the auto market. Each automaker had its own region to sell in, and if the new vehicle did well, the other automakers would sell a similar or rebadged version of the vehicle in their respective regions before expanding. Seeing as how Mitsubishi Motors was already working on a PHEV for the C/D segment when the Alliance shared its mid-term plans, this minicar probably wasn’t what they were talking about.
On that note, did Mitsubishi walk away from the new PHEV? With the 2021 Outlander PHEV having been recently released, and the Engelberg Tourer concept said to one day replace the Outlander PHEV, this new PHEV could be anything. Until then, what do you think of the new mini EV? Would you be interested in your own? Let us know on NowCar social media.