- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

TOKYO (AP) - Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will increase production of its planned electric vehicle after orders for its first 2,000 cars were quickly filled, a spokesman said Friday.

Japan’s No. 4 automaker aims to roll out the “i MiEV” zero-emissions car for leasing in Japan by July. The first year’s planned production of 2,000 units has already sold out with Japanese corporate leasers, including utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. and convenience store chain Lawson, said company spokesman Kai Inada.

Due to the strong interest, Mitsubishi Motors is raising its output of the model for 2010 from 4,000 to 5,000 units, he said.

Mitsubishi Motors plans to sell the i MiEV _ which can be recharged from a regular home socket _ in Europe through Peugeot Citroen PSA in 2010, and sales to individual consumers in Japan are planned for 2011.

The potential growth of such “green” cars is offering a glimmer of hope for the world’s automakers, which are struggling to cope with plunging auto demand caused by the global economic slowdown and credit crunch.

Earlier this week, Malaysia’s national car maker Proton and Detroit Electric, a Netherlands-based company, signed a $555 million deal to make electric cars by early next year. U.S.-based Tesla Motors has a prototype electric car that is scheduled to be produced by 2011. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., are also planning electric vehicles.

Governments in the U.S., Europe and Japan are offering or planning consumer incentives, such as tax breaks, for environmentally friendly vehicles.

While rival Japanese automakers like Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. focus on gas-electric hybrid vehicles, Tokyo-based Mitsubishi is making its i MiEV the pillar of its ecological strategy.

Mitsubishi is hoping to reach annual sales of 10,000 electric vehicles soon, but Inada called “speculative” the report Friday in The Nikkei, Japan’s top business daily, which said i MiEV production will reach 20,000 in fiscal 2011.

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