Monday, November 02, 2009

The Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi is a kei car from Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors, first released in January 2006, twenty eight months after its debut at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. It is the first four door automobile since the 1960s to employ a "rear midship" setup with the engine behind the passengers, in an attempt to improve safety and interior space without enlarging the overall exterior.

The innovative layout and styling of the i proved an immediate critical and commercial success, exceeding Mitsubishi's initial sales targets by 20 percent and winning thirteen awards in its first year. Although designed with the Japanese keijidōsha light automobile class in mind, the attention it generated led to its subsequent introduction in right hand drive markets in Asia, Oceania and Europe. It is also speculated to be the basis of the battery electric vehicle Mitsubishi has timetabled for introduction in 2010.

Two prototypes were exhibited during the car's development. The first was the "i" Concept, which debuted at the 60th Frankfurt Motor Show in 2003, and previewed the car's striking exterior. Motoring journalists were quick to seize on the distinctive silhouette, calling it "a very good egg", and a "crystal ball" with which to see the future of Mitsubishi.

One reviewer even speculated it to be an allusion by the vehicle's French-born designer Olivier Boulay to the Renault 4CV, France's popular post-war "people's car" with which the i shared its four seat, rear-engined layout. Its styling was formally lauded when the i won the Grand Prize at the 50th anniversary Good Design Awards from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in October 2006, the first kei car to win the award