Chrysler has scooped up some coveted street cred in recent months, with the Chrysler 300C appearing in a Snoop Dogg video and rapper 50...
DETROIT — Chrysler has scooped up some coveted street cred in recent months, with the Chrysler 300C appearing in a Snoop Dogg video and rapper 50 Cent angling for a Dodge Charger, another of the carmaker’s models.
The momentum has prompted some observers to question Chrysler’s decision to feature former boss Lee Iacocca — an octogenarian and inventor of the minivan — in its new ads.
“Iacocca will resonate with people 40 and over, the baby boomers, but he won’t necessarily resonate with those 40 and under,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst at consulting firm Global Insight. “It depends on who they’re trying to attract.
“But their vehicles say Gen X. They’re all about hip, cool, retro-looking things.”
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DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group was still finalizing details of the $75 million ad campaign yesterday, spokesman Jason Vines said. But the ads, featuring Iacocca and actor Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame, already have been filmed and are expected to air soon.
Iacocca and Alexander tout Chrysler’s new discount program, which allows consumers to buy vehicles at the employee rate through Aug. 1.
Vines defended the choice of the 80-year-old Iacocca, saying even his 13-year-old daughter had heard of the industry icon who saved Chrysler from bankruptcy before retiring in 1992.
Iacocca appeared in memorable ads throughout the 1980s with the signature tag line, “If you can find a better car, buy it,” a line Alexander delivers in the current ads.
Vines said company tests found consumers of all ages responded positively to Iacocca.
The former chairman and chief executive has appeared frequently in ads since his Chrysler days, including campaign pitches for President Bush in 2000 and ads for his Olivio Premium Products, which makes olive-oil-based spread.
“He is a guy that brought a company back, not a guy that brought a company down. That’s legend, true legend,” Vines said.
Bradley Johnson, an editor at large of Advertising Age magazine, said using Iacocca gives Chrysler much-needed attention after it lagged in the employee-discount game.
General Motors began offering an employee discount June 1, and its sales climbed 41 percent last month. Ford Motor launched a similar deal Tuesday, the day before Chrysler.
“I think Chrysler made a brilliant decision,” Johnson said. “Chrysler has to find a way back, and it’s brought back an icon to sell the cars.”
Paul Ostasiewski, an assistant professor of marketing at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, said Chrysler’s options were limited. American consumers likely wouldn’t respond to Chrysler’s German chairman, Dieter Zetsche, and its last attempt to use a celebrity — singer Celine Dion — quickly bombed, Ostasiewski said.
“Who do you have to represent you in this case? There are very few people who would fit the mold,” he said.
Still, Ostasiewski said Iacocca likely won’t pull in the young viewers automakers covet. Other analysts agreed.
“You would have to explain who he is to a lot of people under the age of 35,” said Michael Bernacchi, a professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy.
On the other hand, Bernacchi said, people in their early 50s have the greatest amount of income, and Chrysler knows it.
“Those folks know who Iacocca is and have the resources to buy those vehicles,” Bernacchi said.
Chrysler shares fell 73 cents, or 1.8 percent, to close at $39.43 yesterday. GM shares declined 40 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $33.82, Ford shares fell 8 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $10.27.