DaimlerChrysler's legacy boosts Mitsubishi

Posted by: Ian Rowley on January 21, 2006

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DaimlerChrysler may have sold off what was left of its stake in loss-making Mitsubishi Motors in November, but the fruits of the ill-fated venture keep coming. On Tuesday, Mitsubishi will release the “i”, a stylish minicar designed by Olivier Boulay. The Frenchman was loaned to Mitsubishi as chief designer until DaimlerChrysler pulled the plug in June 2004 and recalled several executives back from Mitsubishi.

The i (see photo above) certainly looks the part, offering smooth lines and plenty of room inside. To create extra space, its 660cc three-cylinder, turbo-charged engine is located midship, while the wheelbase is a lengthy (for the class) 2.55m. By having no engine upfront it should also be relatively secure if involved in accidents.

Mitsubishi will hope the i follows the success of some of Boulay’s other designs, such as the latest Eclipse and the new Outlander SUV, which was released in Japan in October. The sporty Eclipse, which came out last summer, has sold well in the U.S. while Mistubishi is struggling to keep up with orders for the Outlander in Japan. So far, Mitsubishi tell me they have already received requests for 13,000 Outlanders—just shy of what was initially expected through to the end of March. The new Outlander will go on sale in the U.S. later this year.

How much the new vehicles will stem Mitsubishi’s losses, though, remains to be seen. The automaker expects to post a loss of around $650 million for the year to the end of March, before moving into the black in 2007. Still, without the new cars designed during the partnership with DaimlerChrysler, the Japanese automaker would be in a worse position.

Reader Comments

LD71

January 24, 2006 9:53 AM

What does this mean: "By having no engine upfront it should also be relatively secure if involved in accidents."

Seems counter-intuitive, unless you are trying to say the engine will suffer less harm in a wreck because it's mid-ship. :-)

Remember the Isetta? Great idea, most peole think it's so cute, but are afraid to be caught dead in somthing with just a little bit of sheeetmetal in front of them.

That Mitsu looks like a great little car!

LD71

Ian Rowley

January 24, 2006 10:22 AM

Thanks for the comment. The idea is that because there is no engine to intrude into the passenger cabin, head-on collisions will have less impact. Or as Mitsubishi puts it:

"The rear-midship layout allows a generous front crumple zone as well as providing roomier interior space. "i" sits on a frame structure that delivers much improved multidirectional impact safety. Large-section straight side rails running the length of the body absorb and diffuse impact energy in a frontal crash. Strong cross members linking the straight rails effectively absorb side impact energy while the floor and engine act in concert to absorb and diffuse rear end impact energy. Also, the space freed up under the hood by the rear-midship layout and the use of an energy-absorbing wiper pivot reduce impact energy transmission in the event of a collision with a pedestrian."

Stacey Wilson

January 25, 2006 12:26 AM

If Mitsubishi brings this "i" car to the U.S., I’m pretty sure that it’ll be a hit among college students, retirees, city dwellers, the environmentally conscious – and basically people who don’t mind driving a quirky-looking car (myself included). :)

Maccess

March 9, 2008 4:12 AM

It's a Volkswagen Beetle, more than the new Beetle is an old Beetle. I saw this gorgeous car in Singapore. It's bigger than it looks in pictures and roomy too. I hope they make it for Left hand Drive markets like the US and continental Europe.

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