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Racing Tradition Fuels Sales Event for Mitsubishi


SEE ALSO: Compare Models - Mitsubishi Buyers Guide

Special to The Auto Channel
By Marty Bernstein
AIADA, Contributing Editor

When a company has a record setting 12 wins – seven consecutive since 2001 – at the famous Dakar Rally that constitutes a remarkable heritage.  Known as the toughest race in the world, it’s just one of the records held my Mitsubishi Motors in rallying and racing.

From a marketing perspective, it seems appropriate to take advantage of this amazing rally history along with the remarkable turnaround of Mitsubishi in the U.S., with what every American loves – a nice, big sale with great discounts and special values on all models. 

And that’s just what Mitsubishi did this week when it launched a multi-media integrated ad aptly named, “The Mitsubishi Time to Rally” campaign. The campaign includes ads on national cable television, national sports programs and spot market TV, along with radio, online and dealership point-of-purchase (POP) components.

In a telephone interview, Matt Mendez, retail marketing manager of Mitsubishi Motors North America (a former retail ad agency exec) noted the focus of the advertising on the three core brands: Eclipse, Lancer and Outlander. But he also indicated there would be tactical support at the dealer level for all other models. “All 500 Mitsubishi dealers were made aware of the program last week in conference calls,” he said. “And we expect all to participate.” 

Like most other manufacturers, Mitsubishi is using its web site as a major element in the campaign which was previewed to the brand’s national dealer advisory board to get their “buy-in” on the theme and proposed program. When given the option of creating new commercials or modifying the current versions by adding the rally theme, the board opted to maintain the brand building and awareness benefits with the rally theme.

Dealers have been provided point-of-sale packages, and for the first time, national TV and radio spots specially modified for local use and tagging of the dealer’s name. Co-op was augmented to include items usually not covered and there’s a special e-mail program for dealers. The Rally campaign runs until October 1, 2007. BBDO, the brand’s advertising agency, developed the broadcast and print elements with Organic Inc. handling online components.

In addition to the Rally price incentives, which range from cash back of $4,500 to lowered lease payments and reduced interest charges, returning veterans, college students and current owners can also access the brand’s special bonus offers, running around $500.

Mitsubishi is providing dealers with an assortment of promotional POP materials, including campaign-themed outdoor banners, window clings (click here) and car toppers. There’s also a blast email template to promote the sales event directly to customers, and a co-op program to support dealers in their purchase of additional promotional items such as tents, balloons, inflatables and banners in order to create a true event atmosphere at the dealership.

“The decades of excitement Mitsubishi has created in the world of rally racing makes this the perfect theme to showcase one of the most exciting sales incentive programs we have offered customers in some time” said Dan Kuhnert, Mitsubishi Motors of North America executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re confident our ‘Time to Rally’ campaign captures the excitement that is uniquely Mitsubishi.”

Mitsubishi Business Update

Total 2007 sales through July are up 16.5 percent (adjusted for one less selling day) over 2006 YTD sales for a total of 80,704 vehicles. In July alone, sales rose an adjusted 2.6 percent to 10,347 vehicles. Cars are up 10.8 percent for the year, thanks to the boost provided by the Eclipse Spyder and the Lancer/Mirage, up 36.2 percent and 66.7 percent, respectively. But probably the biggest news coming from Mitsubishi is the jump in sales in its light truck category, which rose 30.5 percent for the year through July and a whooping 43.9 percent for month.

The Dakar Race and Mitsubishi

Over the years working as an automotive journalist I’ve known a few brave men and one woman who have been part of a team in the Dakar Race event. Their comments on the experience have included: “Mind boggling,” “Dangerous,” “Treacherous,” “Stupefying,” “Fun,” naturally, “awesome,” and my personal favorite “Holy ◊◊◊◊!”

The race this year was 4,300 km long, that’s 2,671 miles. But next January, as part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the race, competitors will embark on an almost 6,000 km (3,728.2 miles) road and off-road adventure for cars and bikes. The ride begins in Spain and continues though Morocco, Mauritania, and finally ends in Senegal with a drive through rugged hills, difficult terrain and vast expanses of desert sand. The race officially opens on January 5, 2008 and ends on January 20, 2008.  

Without promising its clients the thrills of Dakar Race drivers, a constructor who wins the Dakar can and will have the advantage of reliability in advertising to future buyers of its vehicles.

The Dakar model that an off-road amateur person might buy will only vaguely look like the one that faces the Mauritanian dunes. In Europe and Asia, however, the notoriety gained from winning remains a key image advantage. In the car class, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and BMW are the biggest investors in ambitious Dakar Race research programs that develop new technologies to progress their normal models.  

The teams for each car have a celebrity too and are used throughout the year at various events and auto shows.  Next year, the Mitsubishi brand will keep its winning teams of pilot and co-pilot with the Frenchmen Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret and the team of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard; the Japanese driver, Hiroshi Masuoka, and his French co-pilot, Pascal Maimon, and the Spanish team of Nani Roma and Lucas Cruz.

Ever since its involvement in the Dakar, Mitsubishi has an advantage over its main competitors, at least in terms of victories. Mitsubishi’s team, known as “the reds,” won the Dakar Race in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and last year, 2007. French brands, Citroen and Peugoet, are the closest with 4 wins each. 

While somewhat unfamiliar to most Americans, the Dakar Race generates amazing worldwide media coverage from the almost 500 journalists who are accredited for the start and finish; 166 of them follow the rally every day. This year, TV ran 643 hours of race coverage, both live and delayed transmission; 44 million pages were read on the race website in a month, with 1.6 million visitors daily for the 4 web versions in French, English, Portuguese and Spanish.