• The Associated Press


Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will increase production of its new electric vehicle if the first 2,000 orders are quickly filled, a spokesman said Friday.

The nation’s No. 4 carmaker aims to roll out the i MiEV zero-emissions car for lease by July. The first year’s scheduled production of 2,000 units has already been sold to corporations, including Tokyo Electric Power Co. and convenience store chain Lawson, said company spokesman Kai Inada.

Due to the strong interest, Mitsubishi Motors is raising output of the 2010 model from 4,000 to 5,000 units, he said.

MMC plans to sell the i MiEV — which can be recharged using regular power sockets at home — in Europe through Peugeot Citroen PSA in 2010. Sales to individual consumers in Japan are planned for 2011.

The potential growth of “green” cars is offering a glimmer of hope to automakers worldwide, which are struggling to cope with plunging demand caused by the global economic slowdown.

Earlier this week, Malaysia’s national car maker, Proton, and Detroit Electric, a Netherlands-based company, signed a $555 million deal to make electric cars by early next year. U.S.-based Tesla Motors has just unveiled a prototype electric sedan scheduled to be produced by 2011. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. are also planning electric vehicles.

Governments in the U.S., Europe and Japan are offering or planning consumer incentives, including tax breaks, for environmentally friendly vehicles.

Unlike Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which are focusing on gas-electric hybrid vehicles, Tokyo-based MMC is making the all-electric i MiEV the pillar of its strategy.

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