TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Motors will introduce the plug-in-hybrid version of its Outlander sport utility vehicle to the Iranian market as early as fall, eager to capture burgeoning demand for environmentally friendly autos.
The lifting of Western sanctions over nuclear activities has spurred the Middle Eastern nation's auto production and imports. And severe air pollution there is fueling demand for green vehicles.
The redesigned Outlander, which curbs use of the conventional engine in favor of the twin electric motors, will be built in Japan and shipped to Iran.
Even with reduced import duties and other incentives for electric cars and hybrids, the lingering effects of the sanctions have held back imports of such vehicles. A network of rapid-charging stations has yet to be built.
Plug-in hybrids, which employ both conventional engines and electric motors, can be charged at home.
Mitsubishi Motors has sold plug-in hybrids in Japan and Western Europe, with plans to broaden into the U.S. and Eastern Europe this year.
Iran will be the first Middle Eastern market where it rolls them out. The country ranks around 20th among the world's auto markets, with annual sales of around 1 million units.
Demand there for new vehicles is seen rising as Iranians finally take the opportunity to change out the older imports they have long driven.
Mitsubishi Motors' Iranian sales volume grew 16-fold on the year to about 3,200 units in 2016. The company plans to increase Iran dealerships to about 50 from the current 41 this year and hopes to boost brand recognition and sales.