Auto industry revs engines with Super Bowl ads

Jeremy Hobson: Ford is probably feeling like a Patriots fan this morning, as in not good, after its rival General Motors aired an aggressive commercial during the Superbowl. The ad takes place after the apocalypse, which a bunch of Chevy truck drivers appear to have survived. But not their friend Dave.

Chevy Owner 1: Where's Dave.

Chevy Owner 2: Dave didn't drive the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road. Dave drove a Ford.

Hobson: Ouch.

Ford wants the ad pulled, arguing that insurance industry figures prove Ford makes the safer truck. For more on this we're joined by Bernard Swiecki of the Center for Automotive Research.

Good morning.

Bernard Swiecki: Good morning.

Hobson: So is this ad by GM out of bounds or is it just a smart move by GM?

Swiecki: Well you know, because it's the Super Bowl you expect things to be at the boundries. It's not terribly overt yet, but I think it says a lot about how important the pick-up segment is to these companies that even that gets them in a bit of a tiff.

Hobson: You say they're in a bit of a tiff, Ford actually officially responded and said don't run this thing. Is that unusual?

Swiecki: Yeah actually, that is unusual. And again, this is the - one - highest volume segment that we have in the automotive industry. And two, it's also probably the most profitable segment. So there's quite a bit of reputation at stake.

Hobson: Now one way of looking at this of course is that competition is back in a big way in Detroit after the bankruptcies and the bailouts. So I want to get a sense of how another ad is going down there in Detroit this morning. This one by Chrysler, here's a bit of it:

Clint Eastwood: This country can't be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world's gonna hear the roar of our engines. Yeah. It's half-time America. And our second half's about to begin.

Hobson: That of course is Clint Eastwood. So is that a car commercial or an Obama 2012 ad?

Swiecki: Yeah, I think you could definitely read that into it. Obviously a government loan is what made the restructuring of both GM and Chrysler possible. So, yeah, you're definitely going to see these things come up in the election speeches. There's no doubt that the government has played a bigger role in the recovery of the industry in the last couple of years.

Hobson: Bernard Swiecki with the Center for Automotive Research. Thanks so much for talking with us.

Swiecki: My pleasure.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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