Chevy's marketing department turning an embarassing situation into a viral campaign is a great example of public relations doing its job right. But what happens when PR people's efforts backfire? This.
Volvo's crash avoidance system fails to avoid a crash (twice)
Chrysler's Twitter accounts are apparently pretty easy to "compromise"
Ford of India gets in a bind with kidnapping cartoons (with celebrity cameos!)
Chevy's "Like a rock" doesn't work if the truck is a boat
Big Three execs fly in corporate jets to ask government for money
The Fiat Cinquecento sends stalker-y letters to women and scares them stiff
No automaker on social media knows what their own vehicles look like
Hyundai boasts their cars' low carbon monoxide emissions makes them suicide-proof
Ford compares its minivan to a space shuttle—the year of the Challenger disaster
Dodge's Indy 500 pace cars always embarrass them horribly
Back in 2010, Volvo was feeling pretty proud of their new crash detection and auto-brake system, and so they gathered a few dozen journalists together to have them witness a driverless S60 accelerate toward and not crash into the back of a truck trailer. Except it did crash, apparently due to low batteries, Volvo said later. If that wasn’t bad enough, a Volvo pedestrian detection demo failed the exact same way just four months later. Mercedes-Benz has suffered similar embarrassment—maybe just avoid doing these things on camera the first time, guys?
For a few days in early 2013, Jeep’s Twitter account suddenly became Cadillac’s, the work of a hacker intent on messing with the Chrysler company’s social media followers. It took the automaker a while to get back on top of the feed, by which point the hacker had posted tonnes of obscene, weird tweets. Even when it hasn’t been outright hacked, Chrysler’s Twitter accounts can be a source of obscenity: somebody behind the official @ChryslerAutos dropped an F-bomb while complaining about Detroit’s drivers back in 2011.
What better way to advertise your new hatchback’s cargo room than with a cartoon of—celebrities tied up in the trunk? Ford of India’s advertising partner was flogged for putting together a series of ads showing, for example, Paris Hilton driving a new Figo with the Kardashian sisters bound hand and foot in the boot. The tagline? “Leave your worries behind.” I bet Ford wished they could’ve, after the complaints they garnered for this one.
The folks behind this 2000 Chevrolet Blazer ad campaign had something going with this “our SUV is so dependable it’s like a lifeboat” analogy thing. Unfortunately none of them stopped to consider how the analogy might clash with the “Like a rock” tagline used in the same TV spots and print ads. Let’s just say if there’s one thing you don’t want your lifeboat to be, it’s like a rock.
When you’re trying to make a case for how badly you need money, it’s probably not best to fly out to the lender you’re appealing to in your own private jet. Ford CEO Alan Mullaly and the other Big Three executives asking Congress for a loan were apparently pretty attached to their corporate aircraft fleet, and used them to get from Detroit to Washington, D.C. back at the beginning of the bailout business.
Back in 1994, the advertising folks for Fiat’s Spanish arm somehow thought it a good idea to send out throngs of anonymous love letters personally addressed to some 50,000 women. Four to six days later, the sender’s identity was revealed in another letter as the new Fiat Cinquecento—but in those four to six days some women understandably presumed they were being stalked by a psychopath. Some were afraid to leave their apartment. Yikes.
Back in 2012, the people behind the official Dodge Twitter account somehow mistook this customized BMW for a Challenger. Embarrassing—but they’re not the only ones to have made a mistake like this. In early 2014, Buick’s Facebook people posted a photo of a ’64 Riviera and captioned it a ’78 Regal—waaay off. Around the same time tire company Falken similarly mistook a custom ’65 Buick Riviera for a Chevelle. Oy.
The old hose-from-the-tailpipe-to-the-cabin suicide trope is a well-established one that, like pretty much every other form of suicide, doesn’t have a lot of inherent humour in it. Hyundai thought they’d found a way to milk a few laughs out of it, though, with a commercial spot showing how the method wouldn’t work in their cars since their carbon monoxide emissions are so low! Hilarious, right? Well, Audi apparently liked the gag, too.
Comparing your new minivan to a spacecraft is a stretch, and a little bit insulting to the intelligence of your audience. But the fail in Ford’s 1986 Aerostar van ad campaign lay not in its content, but its timing. That was the year of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, if you’ll remember, an event you probably don’t want associated with your vehicle. Ford pulled the TV and print ads after the late January explosion.
The Indianapolis 500 has traditionally been paced by a hot new car from an American automaker, but in 1971, not one of the Big Three was feeling up to the task of supplying a vehicle. Eldon Palmer was one of four Indianapolis-area Dodge dealers who stepped up to donate a Challenger convertible to the event. That was all well and good until Palmer, driving the car’s pace lap with astronaut John Glenn in the back, crashed into a temporary photographers’ stand, injuring more than two dozen of them. Dodge also pulled off a near-wreck of a PR stunt when they nominated their Dodge Stealth – a car actually built by Japan’s Mitsubishi – to be the 1991 Indy 500 pace car (pictured). People complained about the car’s un-American origins, and so it was replaced at the last minute by the new Viper R/T.