Every once in a while I write about cars, and seeing Dieter Zetsche starring in a new series of Chrysler commercials warrants a brief rant or two. Zetsche is the chairman and CEO of DaimlerChrysler, and the commercials play off his notoriously prickly personality. The ads have him demonstrate to a “reporter” how Mercedes’ technology has contributed to Chrysler’s products by taking the reporter on a scary test drive, show him storing away the Chrysler and Dodge minivans’ “Stow N’ Go” folding seats in record time, and even have him take the reporter along on a crash test. Unlike most of the commercials starring the head of a car company, these are actually funny.
But, to my point—does putting your CEO on camera actually make it more likely that people will buy your cars? It sure doesn’t seem to be working for Bill Ford, who, based on his ads, seems to believe that Volvo is an example of American ingenuity and that Ford cars are “bold.” (I’ve had Cream of Wheat that’s bolder than today’s Fords.) CEOs only seem to show up in car commercials when the company is in desperate straits—Lee Iacocca, after all, starred in Chrysler’s commercials to try to reassure customers that the company was going to bounce back from bankruptcy. My advice: The final sign of the Apocalypse for GM will be when Rick Wagoner starts showing up in its commercials.