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Discovering the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Canadians warming up to new plug-in SUV.

Lee Bailie By: Lee Bailie August 29, 2018

It took a while for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to arrive in North America, but now that it’s here the plug-in hybrid SUV has really taken off, and it’s not hard to see why.

The mid-size utility resides in the centre of a Venn diagram of 2018 consumer preferences – practical for all (especially those with families), with standard AWD and economical energy consumption.

Suffice to say, its value proposition has quickly found favour among Canadian consumers.

Despite just arriving last December, 3,011 Outlander PHEVs have already been sold in Canada in 2018 through July 31, a number that even surpasses its sales in the U.S. (2,306). It has been a strong seller in Europe and Japan since first going on sale in those territories in 2013 – the best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV in the world according to Mitsubishi – but its arrival in North America was delayed several times due to production constraints related to its lithium-ion battery pack and high consumer demand. Now that it is here, consumers appear ready to give the plug-in SUV a try.

The Outlander PHEV marries a 2.0-litre gas engine with two 60-kilowatt electric motors (one front, one rear) that work in concert with a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack and Mitsubishi’s well-regarded Super All-Wheel Control AWD system.

Other notable features include an electric-only range of 35 km, available DC Fast Charging (level 3) which can charge the battery to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes, and pure electric AWD capability.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

All the Charging stations in Canada

Three models are available in Canada, which range in price from $42,998 to $49,998, and all come standard with Mitsubishi’s generous 10-year / 160,000 km powertrain and battery limited warranty.

Given its strong sales start, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada is keen to keep the positive momentum going which explains the rationale for its recent Hybrid Discovery Event, a two-day takeover of the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre (EVDC) in Toronto. The EVDC is dedicated to educating consumers about electrified vehicles, including plug-in hybrids like the Outlander PHEV and pure electrics (EVs), such as the Nissan Leaf.

Located in Toronto’s north end, the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre opened in mid-2017, and is operated by Plug’n Drive, a non-profit founded in 2011 designed to promote the adoption of electrified vehicles, ‘in order to maximize their environmental and economic benefits’, according to a statement on their website.

The EVDC is designed to be a single destination for interested consumers, providing everything from answers to questions about EVs and plug-ins, to detailed exhibits explaining how the technology works, to test drive opportunities of current electrified models without the sales pressure that often accompanies traditional test drives.

For two days, however, Mitsubishi had the EVDC all to itself, with a fleet of Outlander PHEVs lined up ready to be test driven in the parking lot, and an indoor showroom filled with information and staff ready to answer questions.

Eager to capitalize on the public’s desire for late-summer activities built around food and family gatherings, Mitsubishi also brought a barbecue and an ice cream truck to the premises, along with gifts and giveaways for those who made the trek.

It’s all part of a long-term strategy that will see more electrified vehicles join Mitsubishi’s lineup in the coming years. Now is the time to educate the masses on the benefits of electrification.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

“From a Mitsubishi corporate perspective, strategically, we believe that electric is a part of the key strategy going forward. By 2020, we will have – on our core models – an electric version, either 100 percent electric or plug-in hybrid to match the gas-powered vehicle,” said Steve Carter, Director of Marketing for Mitsubishi.

“Nine thousand vehicles [with some form of electrification] were sold last year (in Canada). In the past 12 months, it’s almost tripled to over 25,000. If we want to continue to see that level of growth it comes down to educating the consumer because there are a lot of misconceptions or lack of understanding between what is a hybrid, what is an electric and what is a plug-in hybrid electric, and so that’s the purpose of not only this activity, but in our launch of the Outlander PHEV.”

“When we started at the beginning of this year in the winter and spring, we went right across the country offering consumers the opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive the Outlander PHEV and educate them along the way as to how the technology works, but ultimately what the benefits are. This [event] is another example of doing that,” he said.

And those efforts appear to be paying off.

Foot traffic at the EVDC was high given that it was a Friday afternoon in August. Plenty of families with kids were on hand to learn more about the Outlander PHEV and treat themselves to some ice cream before heading home.

Being first the first into a segment can be fraught with peril. It might take a while for the market to respond.

But it also has its advantages. When competition inevitably arrives – and plug-in hybrid SUVs from other mainstream brands are on the way – it helps to already have a foothold in the market, to be able to say you believed in the viability of the segment all along. It can be an effective way to separate from the competition in a market that will soon be crowded.

In the case of the Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi is especially fortunate because consumers already seem convinced of its merits.

Fortune does (sometimes) favour the bold.

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