Were you to draw up a ladder based on the competence of a car brand’s products over, let’s say, the last ten years, it’s doubtful that Mitsubishi would be challenging for a place in the top eight.

Its democratisation of plug-in hybrid tech aside, the portfolio has all too often been unadventurous and dated. A lot of metal for your money is the usual lily-livered euphemism, but is it really too much to expect a little more talent and inspiration for your hard-earned?

With that in mind, I was less than thrilled when I injured my back recently and was forced out of a low-slung coupe and into a base Mitsubishi Outlander.

However… at first, I wondered whether it was the codeine talking, but the cabin was far from the usual entry-level SUV plastic dungeon of despair.

Imagine my surprise to discover the Outlander rode well, the power take up was cultured, the fundamental ergonomics were well considered and it was airy and comfortable.

Most shockingly of all, it was not only likeable and good value, but felt as if it had been designed and built by people who genuinely cared.

Mitsubishi has changed and in order to do that, it has had to hold a mirror to itself. An inability to accept the reality of your shortcomings is, in itself, the surest path to mediocrity.

And it’s something that hits home here.

A famously prickly spokesman for another manufacturer recently described Wheels as a challenger brand in the Australian automotive media sector. Rather than clap back with a barrage of reasons he was wrong or attribute it to trolling for a reaction, it was instructive to consider why he’d fired the barb.

And the longer I thought about it, the more I realised he was right, at least in terms of numbers and influence.

For reasons too tedious and arcane to detail here, Wheels’ old paymasters had long identified the core competence of the business as print publishing. We could create beautiful magazines, but our online presence was never top drawer. We did the big stories well but never committed to an online mentality that recognised the subtleties of drawing readers in and keeping them coming back.

… business as usual is nowhere near good enough.

As rivals innovated, we stagnated. We ran the very real risk of becoming the Nokia of the sector, looking to the past, ignoring reader trends and leaning on a skewed perception of brand equity. It didn’t work for Nokia and it won’t work for Wheels. Sometimes all it takes for a culture to change is one person to take a stand; to speak the unpalatable truth that business as usual is nowhere near good enough.

Luca di Montezemolo famously took a drive in the Ferrari 348 and saw in it a reflection of all of the laziness and complacency that blighted Maranello in the early 1990s.

Likewise Richard Parry-Jones transformed Ford’s products after being appalled by the deathless Ford Escort MK V. Mitsubishi has done likewise, with CEO Takao Kato taking a number of hard yet pragmatic decisions with partner Nissan’s help to turn a moribund portfolio around.

Kato would be the first to agree that we all like to feel that we’re winning. It’s an addictive sensation that’s often alien to those who’ve spent years in print publishing, where success is latterly defined by only failing a little year on year.

I’m thrilled by the changes that are taking place here, largely behind the scenes, but to make those changes we had to eat crow and accept that we needed to be sharper. Keep your eyes on Wheels online – and the wider WhichCar presence – because it’s about to change radically for the better. I can’t say too much right now, but I’m sure you’re going to love it.

It might take me a little longer to fall in love with Mitsubishi, but right now it certainly has my attention. It has shown that a challenger needs hunger, energy and a coruscatingly unvarnished assessment of where it stands if it is to succeed. And if Mitsubishi can do it…

Keep your eyes on Wheels online – and the wider WhichCar presence – because it’s about to change radically for the better.

COMMENTS

Keyword: ENRIGHT: Business as usual isn't good enough

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