Mitsubishi's "Ride the Storm" Rides the Line of Safety

In anticipation of the imminent passing of my current jalopy, I recently test-drove a few cars. While I relished the consequence-free fiddling with seats and mirrors and the opportunity to register my disgust with heated seats - in my book, as much an over-luxe scourge as platinum-rimmed toilets - there's only so much one can learn about a car by piloting it through suburbia on a sunny day. Upon returning to the dealership, I asked if it would be okay to return on a snowy, rainy or otherwise weather-impaired afternoon. The sales guy scoffed: "No, that would be dangerous." To this I responded, "My middle name is Danger." He glanced down at my driver's license and said, "No, your middle name is Michael." I didn't buy the car.

Thus I love the thinking behind "Ride the Storm," a campaign in which Mitsubishi tasks the ruggedly be-scarf'd storm chasers at Weather Underground - the thinking person's weather site - with roadtripping from California to Kansas during what the constitutionally timid might call a "winter weather event." By documenting what its minions encountered along the way, Weather Underground would show the world that Mitsubishi cars (or at least the ones equipped with "All-Wheel Control" and some kind of new road-whisperer computer dealie) rank among the safest on the highway.

The branding kick is long overdue. When I asked my wife about her Mitsubishi brand associations, first she looked at me blankly and then she said, hesitatingly, "Airport rentals?" Since Volvo no longer owns safety, Mitsubishi is smart to make a play for the safest-auto-brand title belt. (Separately, Volvo has cemented its grip on the crucial "best car in which to transport soccer balls from one traveling-team match to the next" trophy.)

My problem is with the execution. Simply put, the road-trip weather isn't harrowing enough, despite Mitsubishi's attempts to hype it in the site copy. The video from the third day of the trip is teased with the following blurb: "Avalanche warnings. Trucks sliding off the road. How's that for ominous?" I got myself all revved up for some serious car-on-car pinball action, only to be treated to 50 seconds of a dude yapping about how "the computer is reading the conditions as you drive, in real time." Be still, my beating heart.

Similarly, copy for the second-day video reads like subterranean-grade Hemingway ("we're finally starting to hit some serious white stuff north of Flagstaff") and the footage belies the text. It depicts - and I'll try to make this sound somewhere near as exciting as it is - a Mitsubishi model safely and respectfully passing a snowplow on a road that, to the untrained eye, looks a bit slick. After witnessing this Faces of Death-level encounter, my only hope was that Weather Underground only assigned single men without wives/partners or children to a task of this level of brutality, and that those men didn't sign any kind of we-know-what-we're-getting- ourselves-into waiver.

Admittedly, it's a tough call. On one hand, if you're going to commit to a campaign of this ilk, you can't do it half-assed. At the same time, to get the footage that would prove the safety and bad-weather bona fides of Mitsubishi cars beyond a reasonable doubt, the marketing team would have had to send drivers and cameramen and grips and heaven knows who else into a storm so vicious and unpredictable that it legitimately threatened their well-being. Mercifully, nobody crossed that line.

That's why the last video in the campaign feels the most honest. Against a blue-sky backdrop, a Mitsubishi ad manager dryly describes the trek as a success ("we got rain, we got snow - and five days later, here we are"). In terms of preservation of human life, sure, mazel tovs all around. But few viewers will come away from "Ride the Storm" believing that Mitsubishi vehicles are any safer or road-warrior-y than Fords or Toyotas or Mazdas. More evidence, please.

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1 comment about "Mitsubishi's "Ride the Storm" Rides the Line of Safety".
  1. Lee Ekstrom from Sapient , February 21, 2012 at 3:39 p.m.
    Appreciate your blog Larry. I was at first drawn to the Weather Underground tie-in, but was surprised at the almost over-the-top confidence that they ascribed to Mistubishi's 4WD system. 180LA seems to have slipped one by the legal team - especially on video 2 with the Flagstaff Snow Plow. Their support copy: "Our All-Wheel Control team shows a snowplow who rules this road." While it is not illegal to pass a snow plow - it is not recommended for many reasons (limited visibility, worse road in front of the snow plow, clipping the wide wing blades of the plow, etc.) The Arizona DOT states, "...do not pass snow plows while they are operating." I know it was real-time with Emmett and Brendan Malloy, and a member of Mitsubishi's social media team published as they storm chased. It appears they drove down a rather slippery slope of unsound advice on this trip. The only disclaimer they have is rather weak (and includes a typo), "Safety is a two-way stree. It requires your attention and cooperation. Please remember to fasten your safety seatbelt, drive responsibly and obey all traffic laws." Big point missing - overconfidence breeds bad accidents. The All-Wheel Control, while helpful in getting the vehicle moving, does little to stop a vehicle at an icy intersection or should a deer wander across the highway. Thanks Larry for your spot-on article.