A U.K. publication set some tongues wagging last week when it reported that Mitsubishi planned to offer hybrid or plug-in options for its entire future vehicle lineup over the next four years.
Despite Autocar's report, sources within Mitsubishi's North America division say the company has no plan yet to electrify and hybridize its whole fleet, at least not for this market. GreenBiz.com confirmed the company's plans to launch eight hybrid or plug-in vehicles worldwide by 2015, which would represent about a third of its current global lineup.
"Whether ... all of our entire lineup will have either electric or hybrid is still not decided for the North American market, but we have rolled out the i-MiEV (100 percent electric) and also have plans to introduce the PHEV during FY2013 in the U.S.," Roger Yasukawa, manager of product communications for Mitsubishi Motors Corporation's North America division, said in an email.
"As far as the future product, MMC's intent is to produce vehicles for global market and not just for a specific region," he said. "We will continue to study the best technological application for each model to offer more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles in the future."
Even if the plan to hybridize or electrify Mitsubishi's entire model line materializes, industry insiders expressed mixed opinions on its impact.
"If it is indeed across their entire model line, it is a significant event and would be a milestone among one of the automotive industry manufacturers," said Simon Mui, a scientist with the clean vehicles and fuels program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Such a move would underscore the importance fuel efficiency has taken on in the industry, he said, as well as potentially give Mitsubishi a first-mover advantage.
Industry analyst Alan Baum, however, is skeptical that the company could capitalize on it because it lacks the resources to market the move.
"I just don't think that even if they did that," Baum said, "it would make a huge difference because they don't have the scale to let the world know that they're doing this."
He called the potential move a way for Mitsubishi, as a relatively small player in the automotive market, to differentiate itself. While he characterized the reported four-year window to implement the plan "aggressive," he doubted a quick response from Mitsubishi's competitors.
"This segment requires a lot of development, a lot of time and a lot of patience," he said.
Next page: Will competitors follow suit?