With UK Plug-in Car Sales On the Rise, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Chases Down the Nissan LEAF For Top Sales Spot

Back in 2011, the UK Government launched a grant-based incentive scheme offering both private and corporate buyers generous discounts off the list price of new plug-in hybrid and electric cars and vans. The rules for grant applications were fairly simple: those buying an electric vehicle for personal use were offered up to £5,000 or a total of 20 percent of the vehicle’s value (whichever was smaller) in the form of an at-purchase discount. Those buying an electric van were offered up to £8,000 to assist in the cost of their new business purchase.

The Mitsubishi Outlander has been a runaway success in the UK

The Mitsubishi Outlander has been a runaway success in the UK

Initially, monthly plug-in car grant applications were fairly low in volume, commensurate to the number of plug-in vehicles being sold. But thanks to increased plug-in vehicle choice and greater awareness of plug-in cars, in excess of 25,000 plug-in car grants — more than half of the original 50,000 planned for under the scheme — have been claimed to date, with January alone accounting for more than 2,000 grant applications.

In line with current plug-in sales figures for the U.S., the Nissan LEAF electric car is currently the most popular all-electric car in both Europe and the UK, thanks in part to being one of the first plug-in models on the market back in 2011. But that may soon change as Mitsubishi’s Outlander Plug-in Hybrid chases down Nissan lead with the kind of sales figures that not only mean it is within striking distance of its Japanese rival but have given the firm its strongest passenger car sales figures in history.

Many owners are opting for plug-in hybrid models over pure electrics for the additional peace of mind a range-extending engine provides

Here’s why.

Unlike Norway, where only fully electric cars are eligible for plug-in car perks, the UK offers plug-in incentives to both pure electric and plug-in hybrid models. With range anxiety rife among new plug-in car buyers and reliability issues concerning public charging networks, many owners are opting for plug-in hybrid models over pure electrics for the additional peace of mind a range-extending engine provides.

Then there’s the matter of company car tax. Under UK regulations, if a company provides an employee with a company car as a perk of their job, that employee is charged a ‘company car tax’ by the government as it is considered a benefit-in-kind in lieu of additional salary. The value of that tax is calculated based on the vehicle’s value, emissions and fuel type, as well as the employee’s income tax bracket.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the first practical mid-size plug-in SUV.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the first practical mid-size plug-in SUV.

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — in line with other plug-in vehicles — attracts a far lower BIK tax than conventional petrol or diesel-powered vehicles.

With its large, roomy interior, all-wheel drive facility and range-extended capabilities, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid has proven extremely popular with company car buyers. While its sticker price is higher than that of a brand-new entry-level Nissan LEAF, it is priced the same as a high-end diesel-powered Mitsubishi Outlander, eliminating the usual sticker shock accompanying the purchase of a plug-in variant of a popular petrol or diesel car.

Add in the fact that the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is legally approved to tow and is the first plug-in hybrid to come with a DC quick charging socket as standard, recharging itself from empty to 80 percent full from a CHAdeMO DC quick charge station — and we think you’ll agree that the mid-sized SUV really is a first-class all-rounder.

Official data from the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), analysed by the RAC foundation shows that at the end of last year, 5,273 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrids had been licensed for use on UK roads since the model first went on sale in 2013. Meanwhile, the Nissan LEAF electric car had amassed 6,838 sales since its UK sales debut in March 2011.

The Outlander PHEV has a positively cavernous interior.

The Outlander PHEV has a positively cavernous interior.

With sales now well into the second quarter of 2015 however, we’re guessing the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV might have already overtaken the LEAF in the UK plug-in sales charts, as it did last year in Europe overall.

At the time of writing, we have no official data to confirm this, save for the large numbers of Outlander Plug-in Hybrids seen every day on the roads in and around Bristol, UK where our offices are located. That and the almost daily truckloads of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUVs heading away from the port of Avonmouth where they arrive in the UK from Japan to dealers all over the UK.

There’s a constant stream of trucks heading from the port of Avonmouth to all over the UK, carrying fleets of Outlander PHEVs

Currently, the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is only available in Japan and Europe, with a revised second-generation model due to debut next year in the U.S. as a late 2016 model year car. Offering similar performance, efficiency and range capabilities as the current Japanese and European-market model, the Mitsubishi Outlander won’t be the longest-range plug-in hybrid you can buy, with its 25-miles of real-world all-electric range being just half of that of the upcoming 2016 Chevrolet Volt.

Like buyers in Europe and Japan, we suspect many American buyers will pick the Outlander plug-in hybrid for its all-round capabilities and low running costs.  And that could mean some very interesting things for U.S. plug-in car sales, which are currently dominated by the Nissan LEAF, and Chevrolet Volt.


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