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Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- It’s “halftime in America,” and people who are out of work need look no farther than Detroit to see a way to recovery, Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood said in a Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler Group LLC.
Eastwood, 81, spoke in a two-minute spot as the New England Patriots and New York Giants headed to their locker rooms at the midpoint of last night’s game, the year’s most-watched U.S. television event.
“It’s halftime in America too,” Eastwood said in the graveled voice that uttered some of Hollywood’s most memorable lines in more than five decades as an actor, director and producer. “People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback.”
Answers can come from the people of Detroit, Eastwood said. Wracked by the 2007-2009 recession and collapse of U.S. auto sales that sent the former Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. into bankruptcy, the region’s jobless rate reached as high as 16.6 percent in July 2009. Now it’s 9.7 percent.
“The people of Detroit know a little something about this,” said Eastwood, who was mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, from 1986 to 1988. “They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.”
Now General Motors Co. has regained its spot as the world’s largest automaker, car companies are hiring and Michigan had the second-best performance on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States in the third quarter. Only oil-producing North Dakota had a bigger gain. The U.S. government has exited a stake it acquired in Chrysler during the bankruptcy process, and Italy’s Fiat SpA today owns 58.5 percent of the company.
The spot may have special resonance in an election year where the economy and job growth are key themes of Republican criticisms of President Barack Obama.
“If it wasn’t for the bailout packages, Chrysler and GM would probably not be around,” Jesse Toprak, a Santa Monica, California-based analyst at TrueCar.com, said in an interview. “Now they’re adding capacity to plants, adding more production, and the best-case scenario has come to fruition. This was a commercial to remind people what has happened.”
Dianna Gutierrez, a spokesman for the company, declined to comment about the commercial.
The piece ran for 2 minutes of the most expensive television advertising time of the year, during the game that the Giants won 21-17. The average cost of a 30-second spot was $3.5 million.
‘An Emotional Theme’
The ad made no mention of Chrysler aside from a few images of cars and light trucks being built and the company’s brand logos in the closing shot. The automaker ran a similar ad during last year’s Super Bowl, using music from hometown rapper Eminem and focused more squarely on the city of Detroit itself and the quality of the Chrysler 200 sedan.
“They were trying to tap into an emotional theme” of surviving hardship, Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of auto researcher Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California, said in an interview after the game. “This one sounded like an Obama re- election campaign.”
The closest Eastwood came to addressing the political environment was in describing “the fog of division, discord and blame.” America will have to find its way through the tough times, he said.
“Detroit’s showing us it can be done,” he said. “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.”
“Yeah, it’s halftime, America,” Eastwood said. “And our second half is about to begin.”
--Editors: Terje Langeland, Anthony Palazzo
To contact the reporters on this story: Kevin Miller in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org; Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at firstname.lastname@example.org