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Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced Monday the launch of three fully redesigned minicars it hopes will energize the stagnant economy.The announcement is the first of a flurry of minicar announcements expected due to new regulations imposed Oct. 1 on the Japanese minicar industry.This week, major minicar manufacturers Suzuki Motor Co. and Daihatsu Motor Co. are scheduled to introduce their latest models, and as many as 16 are expected to hit the market in coming weeks.Mitsubishi’s new models, which went on sale the same day, are the Toppo BJ, the Minica and the Pajero Mini.A new regulation designed to improve minicar safety requires automakers to make the vehicles 10 cm longer and 8 cm wider.Engine displacement for minicars will remain 660cc or less, but the new regulations now require that the automobile wannabes withstand frontal and side impacts at a speed of 50 kph. In addition, fuel-spill prevention measures to protect against rear-end collisions are musts.In addition to strengthening and expanding the body structure, MMC put a newly developed lean-burning engine into the new models that improves fuel efficiency by an average of 10 percent, the firm said.The Toppo BJ costs between 898,000 yen and 1.439 million yen and has a monthly sales target of 8,000 units. The Minica is priced between 555,000 yen and 1.152 million yen, with a monthly sales target of 5,000 units.In a first for minicars, the new models will come equipped with a keyless entry system that enables remote operation of power windows and locks, the firm said.With the new models expected to hit the market back to back, MMC predicted the nation’s minicar market will increase 10 percent in the latter half of the current business year from the same period last year, and MMC hopes to take around 18 percent of that.”One fourth of the vehicles in Japan fall into the minicar category. I’m sure the demand for minicars will be stronger as vehicles become safer and more environmentally friendly,” said Katsuhiko Kawasoe, president of MMC. “We are hoping the new vehicles will blow away the current stagnation in the economy,” Kawasoe said.

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