Mitsubishi follows colleagues by taking a painfully slow approach with hybrids and EVs

While it's no big surprise, there does seem to be wide disparity between what automakers publicly state about supporting hybrids and electric vehicles, and what they actually deliver. One example is Ford Chairman Bill Ford, who's been evangelizing electrification for Ford's future for a while (see video below and read this for just one example), but then you see the sales figures. Since being launched in January, Ford's first plug-in electric vehicle, the Focus Electric, has only sold 135 units in the U.S. as of July 31. If you include hybrids, Ford's numbers were 17,367 hybrids and EVs, but it's still only a blip on the screen.

Mitsubishi is following a parallel trajectory, with the latest news being the automaker deciding to bring its first hybrid electric vehicle to the market – the Dignity, a luxury hybrid sedan being released first in the Japanese market. The company is taking a cautious approach – one part of that strategy is adding an Infiniti drivetrain. The Dignity is using a long-wheelbase version of the Infiniti M35h, which has a 359-horsepower hybrid drivetrain, coming from a 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 engine paired with an electric motor.

Like its Japan-headquartered competitors, Mitsubishi is a large corporation with its hands in multiple industries – a workforce of 60,000 people in 90 countries serve the automotive, chemical, machinery, and other markets. The brand has been in the U.S. auto market since 1981, but has never achieved impressive sales figures. Mitsubishi has indicated that hybrids and electric vehicles are part of its forward-thinking strategy for market growth. Its plug-in hybrid Outlander is due on the U.S. market in late 2013 or early 2014.

Like Ford and other competitors, production volume, marketing, and dealer distribution have been painfully slow for Mitsubishi. The i (aka i-MiEV in Japan and Europe) has only sold 366 units in the U.S. since its launch at the beginning of this year, with 33 of these EVs sold in July (and now it's being recalled). That's nearly three times the U.S. sales volume of the Ford Focus Electric. So what?

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