THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
May 21, 2022 at 18:29 JST
A decision by Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to release ultra-small electric vehicles this summer with price tags comparable to gas-powered cars could be the game-changer that pumps life into this relatively dormant sales sector.
The come-on for consumers, who until now have shied away from new EV models due to cost considerations, lies in the various subsidies available that will bring down prices to levels consumers are more comfortable with.
Both companies are pioneers in EV development. The lack of any meaningful difference in prices translates basically into more choice for consumers.
The two automakers have also reduced the driving range for a fully charged EV to about 180 kilometers and will initially focus on selling the minivehicles in rural areas, where most drivers use them for daily errands or commutes, rather than long-distance journeys.
Another factor in the sales strategy announced May 20 lies in the fact that many single-family homes in rural areas have electric outlets installed.
But potential customers of EVs in urban areas remain hesitant about making purchases due to a lack of outlets to charge the vehicles.
Both automakers clearly saw the need for a rethink about EVs. Mitsubishi first rolled out an EV in 2009, and Nissan followed suit the next year.
But after more than a decade, sales never picked up like in other nations. EVs, even now, only account for about 1 percent of all new cars sold in Japan.
In contrast, about 14 percent of all new cars sold in 2021 in Germany were EVs. The figure for China is 13 percent if hybrid and fuel cell vehicles are included.
The first EV sold by Mitsubishi only clocked up around 24,000 sales, prompting the company to end production in fiscal 2020.
The two automakers were able to sharply cut the price of the new EVs by installing a much smaller battery. But that in turn means the vehicle can only travel a much shorter distance on a full charge.
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