"If you can find a better-built, better-backed car, buy it."
The tag line sounds like vintage Lee Iacocca. But it's from Mitsubishi TV commercials that have aired this year in Australia.
"I shamelessly admit I copied it," laughs Thomas Phillips, CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd. Phillips is a 40-year veteran of Australia's auto industry. He worked at General Motors' Holden Ltd. unit and Toyota Motor Corp. Australia, where he was director of sales and marketing. He joined Mitsubishi in 2000.
"I'm no Lee Iacocca," Phillips adds, "but the concept still works."
In the early 1980s, Iacocca staked his reputation - and the future of a nearly bankrupt Chrysler Corp. - on his TV commercials. He challenged American consumers: "If you can find a better car, buy it."
Mitsubishi Australia was in nearly as dire straits when Phillips decided to echo Iacocca's line.
A steady worldwide barrage of negative news had battered Mitsubishi. Quality and financial problems, and the news of DaimlerChrysler AG's pullout from an alliance with the Japanese automaker, had hurt Mitsubishi sales.