Quraishiki, Japan – Japan’s Mitsubishi Motor Corporation and Nissan Motor Company have unveiled their first jointly developed light electric vehicle (EV), aimed at attracting more Japanese drivers to battery-powered vehicles by offering low-cost micro-models.
The two Japanese carmakers, partnering with French carmaker Renault SA, were once considered trailblazers in Japan’s EV market but have struggled to attract customers and meet challenges from fast-growing newcomers such as Tesla.
“I’m sure the Alliance’s representative (the new vehicle) will be a game changer for electric vehicles in Japan,” Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said at the unveiling of the new models in the western Japanese city of Qurashiki.
Automakers are hoping to increase their presence in the unique Japanese “Kai” car market, which accounts for about 40% of the cars on Japan’s roads.
Earlier this year, a coalition of three companies detailed a five-year plan to invest $ 26 billion in EV development, including KEi cars.
Nissan, which makes the Leaf and Aria electric vehicles, will offer its first light EV, the Sakura, starting at about 1.78 million yen ($ 13,891) after factoring in government subsidies and with a range of 180 kilometers (112 miles).
I-MiEV electric car maker Mitsubishi Motors will release the “eK Cross EV” starting at around 1.85 million yen with a subsidy, which also has a range of 180 kilometers.
Both automakers have said they will begin selling new lineups of their electric “Kay” cars this summer.
Riho Suzuki, Nissan’s regional product manager, said: “Those who think EVs are too expensive will become a little more interested in EVs and will be willing to give them a try.”
($ 1 = 128.1400 yen)
(Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Edmund Clayman)