Nissan and Mitsubishi launch light electric cars in Japan

Nissan and Mitsubishi launch light electric cars in Japan

By Satoshi Sugiyama

KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) – Automakers Mitsubishi and Nissan have announced their first jointly developed electric cars, aimed at attracting more Japanese drivers to battery-powered vehicles.

The two Japanese automakers, part of a consortium that also includes Renault, were once considered pioneers in Japan’s electric car market but have struggled to attract customers and face competition from fast-growing companies such as Tesla.

“I am confident that (the new vehicles) representing the alliance will change the game for electric vehicles in Japan,” Nissan Chief Executive Makoto Uchida said at the presentation of the new model in the western Japanese city of Kurashiki.

The automaker hopes to increase its presence in the Japanese market for small cars, called “kei” cars, which represent about 40% of the cars on the road in Japan.

The alliance of the three companies earlier this year detailed a five-year plan to invest $26 billion in the production of electric vehicles, including kei cars.

Nissan, which makes the Leaf and Ariya electric cars, will sell its first electric car, the Sakura, for about 1.78 million yen ($13,891) following a government subsidy. The car has a mileage of 180 km.

Mitsubishi Motors, makers of the i-MiEV electric vehicle, will launch the “K-EV Cross” from around 1.85 million yen including subsidy and also with a range of 180 km.

Both automakers said they will begin selling a new line of “kei” electric vehicles in the middle of the year.

“People who used to think electric cars were too expensive will be more interested [por veículos elétricos] and we will be ready to test them,” said Riho Suzuki, regional product manager at Nissan.

(By Satoshi Sugiyama)