Wednesday, Jun 28, 2017
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Automotive

Toledo-made Wrangler stars in 1 of 4 new ads

Chrysler Group LLC has released four new TV ads that continue the "Halftime in America" Super Bowl theme, including one narrated by a young girl that shows a Jeep Wrangler pulling commuter duty.

The introspective commercials, each highlighting a different vehicle from the group's four core brands, build on the Super Bowl ads' focus on resilience and rebirth more than the vehicles themselves.

Snippets of each were included in the Super Bowl ad, which was narrated by Clint Eastwood.

In the minute-long Jeep ad, called "Jenny in the Jeep Wrangler," a young girl talks about getting used to her family's new surroundings, with a new, smaller house, a new school for her and her brother, and a job for her mother.

The three make their morning commute in a silver Wrangler Unlimited that has Pennsylvania license plates. Chrysler's Toledo Assembly complex is the only place Jeep Wranglers are made.

The other ads offer a similar theme and tenor — a Marine veteran father talking about his family and driving a Dodge Challenger; a wife praising her husband's determination to keep their family afloat while he goes to work in a Ram truck; a father sharing pride in his adult son's success in going out on his own and showing a Chrysler 300.

Chrysler said the ads were inspired by true stories from across the country.

Absent are fancy driving, off-roading, any talk of luxury, and nearly any reference to the automobiles that are being shown.

"I think the whole idea is that it's connecting people to the car, so people viewing it envision themselves. I think it plays to the time," said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com. "There seems to be class friction going on, and I think this plays to more the middle-class America, which is where Chrysler has always been."

She said the ads were too new to accurately gauge what impact they would have.

In a blog post on Chrysler's Web site, Olivier Francois, the automaker's chief marketing officer, wrote that the ads were intended to be "stories of hope and encouragement."

The Eastwood ad that aired Feb. 5 during halftime of the Super Bowl generated plenty of buzz, but not quite the same level of showroom traffic as the breakthrough "Born of Fire" ad the year before.

Ralph Mahalak Jr., owner of Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Superstore in Monroe, said, "The difference was, the Super Bowl ad in 2011 was just laser-beam focused on a Chrysler 200. Obviously, our sales of the Chrysler 200 in the last year have gone way up. ... The ad this year was more of an overall theme. I think too many people read too much politics into this thing, but it still gave people a positive impression of America."

That ad, which highlighted Detroit's resurgence, drew criticism from Republicans, while Democrats trumpeted the success of the auto bailouts.

The biggest controversy the new slate of ads generates might be from Wrangler fans who want to see the sport utility vehicle tackling rough trails or snowdrifts. Still, a city approach is more true to how the majority of buyers will put the SUVs to use.

"It resonates because that's how people really and truly use them," Ms. Krebs said. "Everybody talks about what things do off-road, but we know for a fact the vast majority of people don't take them off-road. They are people haulers."

Mr. Mahalak said dealers expected a new direction from Mr. Francois, and he's happy with what he's seen.

"I believe in what these guys are doing and I think it certainly portrays our products in a great situation. I think Chrysler Corporation was a big part of America's comeback in the '80s and it's a big part of the comeback today."

Each of the ads, as well as the Super Bowl spot, can be seen on Chrysler's YouTube page.

Chrysler 300 ad: ("My Son Steven")

Dodge Challenger ad: ("Shaun in the Challenger")

Ram Truck ad: ("Tommy in the Ram")

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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