Our wired world makes it easy for marketers to try to sell us just about anything – products, experiences, sometimes both – over the Web. But things in the virtual world just aren't the same. That is why taking a virtual tour of an art museum is about as satisfying as eating a virtual pizza. Even so, it's hard not to like Mitsubishi's new online marketing initiative, which takes great technological pains to link real-world and online experiences. Starting November 1, U.S. customers will be able to test-drive the new Outlander Sport SUV online. But it's not one of those silly virtual test-drives; this is the real deal, with a real SUV.
Mitshubishi has outfitted one of its new Outlanders with a robotic control system that allows users to remotely control it from a PC. Cameras in the car – which naturally will be on a closed course – will deliver a live feed to drivers, who can take the auto for a spin to see how it measures up against other cars you drive with your arrow keys. We guess.
Mitsubishi says drivers should get a good feel for what it's like to be in the driver's seat. Having not had the opportunity to drive it, we'll refrain from scoffing at this claim, though I'd like to think sitting in the driver's seat of their new SUV is a far cry from sitting in my rigidly upright office chair. Still, it's a delightfully high-tech way to get customers interacting with the car, and that's the first step toward getting that person into the driver's seat for real.
Interested in a virtual test drive? Go to the Outlander Sport microsite starting tomorrow to claim a code that Mitsubishi will use to assign you a time slot. And do it quick. The test drives only go on for ten days. After that, you're actually going to have to leave the house to drive a car.