Now that football season is in full swing, I'm enjoying viewing some of the more outlandish commercials that run during the games. One in particular that comes to mind is the advertisement for Chrysler Corporation's Dodge Challenger, which originally aired during last summer's FIFA World Cup. To recap, the commercial shows a line of Revolutionary War-era British soldiers setting up a skirmish line to fight the oncoming American patriots led by General George Washington. At this point, three Dodge Challengers zoom through a valley toward the Red Coats with Washington leading the charge. And to make sure we really get the point, the Challenger driven by the Father of Our Country has the Stars and Stripes attached to the hood. The British are overwhelmed and as they begin to run away, the voiceover says, "Here's a couple of things America got right: cars, and freedom."
Without getting into the fact that this is probably one of the dumbest commercials ever made, let's look at what it's saying about American cars. The Dodge Challenger only has EPA ratings of 16/23 mpg for the automatic version and 15/23 mpg for the six-speed manual model.
The fact is that we are at a true crossroads regarding where we want our energy policy to lead us through this next century, and advertising a muscle car with this kind of mileage doesn't come close to showcasing what is really one of the strongest aspects about our country: our ability to innovate and improve. Relying on an outmoded rationale to sell cars is simply unfortunate.
Plus, lest we forget, Chrysler received a huge government bailout. At the time, the federal government stated that auto manufacturers would be held accountable for bringing the industry to the forefront of technology, i.e. green automobiles for a new green economy. And yet all Chrysler can do is showcase a new model car with EPA ratings of 15/23 and 16/23 mpg? That's unimpressive, to say the least. It seems like the company is stuck in reverse and have no intention of changing, at least in the short run.
Perhaps Chrysler is working behind the scene on a host of new fuel-efficient cars. Let's hope so, because it would be much more heartening to see our tax dollars directed toward that goal. It would also prove that what we're all looking to see is entirely possible--that is, a new generation of vehicles that can get us off foreign sources of oil as well as reduce our carbon footprint.
Now, getting back to that commercial, I'm not sure which is worse: using bailout money to fund the making of outdated, gas-guzzling automobiles or to pay executives to oversee the creation of such an embarrassingly bad advertisement.
Jonathan A. Schein is President/CEO, publisher of MetroGreenBusiness.com