Mitsubishi’s new focus is change for the better: to fill its models with great features and make its service a point of distinction
If you’ve recently noticed updated new models from Mitsubishi and wondered where the brand has been during the recent automotive renaissance, the company wants you to know: they’ve been hard at work improving their products, and doing this with you in mind.
More than 50% of Mitsubishi’s buyers are women, which to executive vice president Don Swearingen, who oversees the company’s US operations, is a huge success. But he’d like to sell even more cars to women. Mitsubishi’s first model revamp, the 2016 Outlander compact SUV, was crafted for women who buy cars with their families in mind.
100 Improvements: A strategy that inspired a campaign
In redesigning the Outlander, the company made 100 improvements, from reducing road noise to improving fuel economy to lowering the price.
To tell the story of the 100 improvements to the Outlander, the Mitsubishi ad team worked with the Santa Monica ad agency, 180/LA, to create a campaign featuring 100 spokespersons.
“We felt that this car was so special that we couldn’t just hire one spokesperson,” said Francine Harsini, Director of Marketing for Mitsubishi North America.
The campaign was produced at the Mitsubishi campus in Cyprus, California, using some employees and a lot of characters. For instance, there is a ballerina to profile the rear suspension, an Inuit Eskimo represents the front wiper de-icer and a plastic surgeon to stand for the new front face.
Change for Mitsubishi means upgrades typically seen in luxury (and more expensive) cars
Some of the upgrades to the Outlander include all new sheet metal, rear chrome accents, fabric wrapped pillars and headliners (essentially, the ceiling and posts that hold it up), piano black accents (that replace wood accents), new padding in the seats and head rests, LED headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated windshield wipers and side mirrors that fold in when the car doors are locked. They also took a cue from their customers and went back to hard keys and knobs.
“We want to challenge the SUV status quo. Essentially we built a new vehicle,” said Bryan Arnett, Senior Manager, Product Planning for Mitsubishi.
NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) was key. For example, they padded the inside of the door mirror for better insulation and paid attention to inside noises like the sound of the door closing.
Harsini added, “It’s really just about recognizing what the product is, and not going back to the same old thinking.”
“We were great at being inconsistent,” Harsini laughed. “But this is the best car we’ve ever launched.”
Changing to appeal to all drivers, not just the ones who love to drive
With the changes in the Outlander, and with more changes in other models on the horizon, Mitsubishi isn’t stepping away from the brand’s heritage of engineering and racing, but instead, building cars that encompass all that customers want. “I want my wife and kids to drive these cars,” said Swearingen.
Also central to the company’s future is creating a better customer experience at the dealership.
Change means focusing on the dealer experience, too
To do this, Mitsubishi surveyed customers to understand what they liked about the dealership experience, what frustrated them, and what else they want, then put that information to work. They’ve been training dealers and working with them to upgrade their customer experience, then following up to make sure that customers are truly happy with the service. Customers will find new offerings like free oil changes, free car washes and redesigned waiting areas.
This strategy is how Mitsubishi intends to grow its customer base, said Swearingen. “Adding more dealers isn’t the key to growth for Mitsubishi,” he said.“We want units to increase instead.” Increasing the number of cars each dealer sells will allow dealers to make the changes that will make customers happy. “We want customers for life,” said Swearingen. “If customer is satisfied, they are 5 times more likely to buy again.”
But maybe the thing that will make customers happiest is the still very grounded pricing structure. The 2016 Outlander has a starting price of $22,995, a drop of $200 from the 2015 model, and can be had nicely loaded for $31,000.
Additional reporting by Scotty Reiss