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Mitsubishi three cylinder KEI car was poised to set a new pricing benchmark, except for one flaw. 10-07-2014

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Meet the $10,000 micro car that could have been. The Mitsubishi i KEI car the conventional petrol powered version of the companys iMiev electric car has become a rollicking success in Asian cities and was slated for release in Australia recently, but was ultimately shied away from because there are not enough buyer incentives, the company says. In Japan, the kei car has become a huge seller due to the fact that it escapes costly congestion taxes because of its small engine size (less than 660cc). Similar legislation is now filtering into major European cities. Mitsubishi Australia marketing director, Antonio Principe, says the company had seriously considered bringing its kei car into Australia, but opted against it because of the low take-up of small, modestly powered vehicles. Its not a bad little car, it looks good and its big enough, but I dont know whether Australians are ready for a 660cc engine, Principe said. The diminutive sedan would have been priced somewhere between $10,000 and $12,000, Principe says. Mitsubishi says it would reconsider importing the kei car if incentives such as lower tolls, insurance premiums and registration, free parking or congestion tax concessions were ever offered in major Australian cities. If you look at the market, anything under a 1.4-litre engine in Australia is a bit of a struggle to push out the door, The success of the Mirage is basically the exception; when it does well the entire micro segment is doing well. Daihatsu had attempted to sell kei cars in Australia previously with its diminutive drop-top, the Copen, and tall-boy wagon, the Move, but sales languished before the brand was discontinued in 2005. The most recent micro car casualty in Australia was the Volkswagen Up, which was axed last year off the back of a lowly 1440 transactions in its first year on sale. The similarly minded Smart fortwo has also struggled to find favour with Australian buyers, despite its popularity in Europe. If the government was to offer more incentives, that would probably encourage a lot more buyers, Principe said. They have done similar things like that in Europe and the take-up of those sorts of vehicles is much higher. Daihatsu, Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki all manufacture kei cars in Japan, while Nissan, Mazda, Toyota and Subaru offer re-badged models.
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