It doesn’t always pay to be first to market with a new product.
By waiting to see what the opposition does, a latecomer to the party can watch, learn from from the mistakes of others, and fine-tune its offering to perfection before finally putting it on sale.
Take the new breed of smooth, stylish 4x4 trucks that is emerging from Japan.
Nissan set the ball rolling with the new Navara in September, a musclebound titan with a class-leading 174bhp turbodiesel powerplant which will blow the socks off any of the opposition in terms of power.
Then in October, Toyota replied with its new Hilux which, while it looks petty tough, has a relatively puny 101bhp engine.
The present market leader, the Mitsubishi L200, is due to be replaced in March and – as widely expected among us journalists – will steer a middle path and offer a macho-but-fleet-sensible 136bhp, with the option of a power upgrade to 165bhp for those with a bent for extra oomph.
But it is not only in the power stakes that the L200 differs from its rivals.
At a special press launch in Sardinia, attended by Fleet Van, it soon became apparent that the Mitsubishi designers have steered themselves in a very different direction to those at Nissan and Toyota.
While the Navara and Hilux have a distinctly American look, the L200 has been styled exclusively for Europe.
Single-cab, club-cab and double-cab will be on sale from launch, unlike with the new Navara, where the single-cabs will still be based on the old model.
Entry-level spec starts at 4Work and rises through 4Life, Warrior, Animal and up to a new luxury Elegance class.
In the cabin, the L200 boasts best-in-class dimensions for the double-cab – rear legroom is up 60mm over the old model – and there is a new car-like dashboard to replace the old agricultural version in the previous model.
A new ladderframe chassis provides a smoother ride with less noise and vibration and the L200 has the best drag co-efficient in its class, leading to better fuel economy at 32.9 miles per gallon on the combined cycle.
In the back, the load-bed for the double-cab is slightly smaller than the old model at 1,325mm long by 1,470mm wide as opposed to 1,500mm x 1,470mm.
Payload is also down slightly from 1,065kg to 1,045kg.
Under the bonnet is a brand new 2.5-litre Euro IV-compliant common-rail turbodiesel engine offering 136bhp at 4,000rpm and 231lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm, well down on the Navara’s massive 297lb-ft but up from the old L200’s 115bhp.
Both a five-speed manual and four-speed auto box will be offered.
Driver and passenger airbags and ABS brakes are standard across the range and traction control will be available – another sector first.
Prices range from £12,249 for the 4Work single-cab to £19,999 for the Elegance.
The Nissan Navara costs from £14,695 to £21,970 (all prices ex-VAT).