/

MMC to boost minicars with new alliance

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. President Osamu Masuko said Wednesday the automaker will develop new minivehicles, including an electric version, for the global market through its newly announced collaboration with the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

“We feel minisize electric vehicles will be accepted well in the market,” Masuko said at a news conference in Tokyo announcing MMC’s midterm business plan. “We’d like to develop new minicars for our international strategy through the alliance.”

Mitsubishi Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance jointly announced Tuesday they will consider collaborating on new projects covering products, technologies and manufacturing capability.

Masuko also said MMC may sell two new sedan models under its brand based on Renault vehicles. The first would be for the full-size market in North America and the second for the global compact car market.

Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan Motor Co. established a joint venture called NMKV Co. in June 2011 with the aim of co-developing “kei” minicars for both brands. The first went on sale in June in Japan, as the Days for Nissan and the eK wagon for Mitsubishi Motors.

“Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have jointly benefited from several collaborations in the past,” Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said Tuesday.

“I welcome the direction being taken toward this broader cooperation, creating new opportunities for Renault in addition to further leveraging the productive relationship between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors,” he said.

All three carmakers have launched electric vehicles. Mitsubishi Motors launched the i-MiEV in 2009 and Nissan followed with the Leaf in 2010. The French firm launched the Renault Fluence Z.E. in 2011.

Masuko said his company has set a global sales target of 1.43 million cars in the 2016 fiscal year based on its new midterm plan for the three years from 2014. MMC sold 987,000 vehicles worldwide in the fiscal year that ended last March.

Renault and Nissan started their alliance in 1999. Currently the French automaker holds a 43.4 percent stake in Nissan, while the Japanese firm has a 15 percent stake in Renault. Global car sales for the alliance stood at 8.09 million last year.

Motegi against tax hike

jiji

Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed his opposition Tuesday to a proposal by a panel of the internal affairs ministry to raise the tax on minivehicles.

“Minivehicles are an important means of transport, especially in rural areas, and the tax rate therefore must not be increased,” Motegi said at a meeting of the Upper House Economy and Industry Committee.

He made the remarks in response to Teruhiko Mashiko, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party of Japan, who criticized the minivehicle tax hike as being aimed at replacing the automobile acquisition tax, which the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition plans to scrap.

The internal affairs ministry panel drafted a report late last month calling for part of the revenue loss from the planned auto acquisition tax abolition to be covered with a minivehicle tax hike.