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In the spotlight: Mitsubishi pins hopes on a new, greener strategy

The plug-in version will follow in 2013 and will offer permanent four-wheel drive while CO2 emissions are expected to be less than 50g/km.

Fuel consumption of around 150mpg (on the European standard test cycle) is also one of its targets, while offering a total range using plug-in charge and a full tank of fuel of around 500 miles.

Colt replacement promises best-in-class fuel efficiency

Meanwhile a new small car, likely to be called Mirage in the UK, will be launched to replace the Colt near the end of this year. Bradley expects best-in-class fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (based on conventionally-powered petrol cars), and suggests a zero-emission version could follow.

Like all manufacturers with products built in Japan, Mitsubishi has found it increasingly difficult to compete profitably because of shifts in the exchange rate with the yen.

Bradley said that in 2009 there were 250 yen to the pound; this year it has more often been around half that amount.

Essentially, it means Japanese products should have become twice as expensive, although many manufacturers have been able to absorb some, if not all, of the cost.

Mitsubishi in the UK is an independent importer and reports directly to Japan rather than through the organisation’s European headquarters and Bradley says it has been helpful to negotiate directly with the factory.

“The exchange rate has been extremely challenging,” he says. “It means the price of cars should be double what they were three years ago, and it puts pressure on everybody’s margins.

“The factory has been extremely supportive of us, but it reaches the stage where they can’t help any further.”

Although Mitsubishi had been building some cars at the NedCar plant in Holland until recently, Bradley says many components were shipped in from Japan.

The situation should improve with the introduction of the new small car, which will be built in Thailand and will not be exposed to the yen/sterling problems to the same extent.

Mitsubishi was the first manufacturer to offer one of the latest generation of electric vehicles with the i-Miev, and Bradley admits the introduction of electric cars to the UK hasn’t been as smooth as he would have liked.

There are still a lot of unknowns for customers about EVs, and many still think they’re too different.

The i-Miev was initially sold through a network of 14 EV-specialist Mitsubishi dealers, but Mitsubishi announced in January that all its dealers would undertake training and meet the requirements of the original designated EV specialists, prompted by plans to introduce plug-in versions of mainstream models over the next few years.

Bradley says the dealer network will provide excellent service and be able to offer the best advice to retail and fleet customers.

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