Chrysler's New "Lifetime" ads Stretch the Bounds of Cred.

Posted by: David Kiley on August 13, 2007

Chrysler has launched a new campaign touting the “lifetime” warranty of its powertrains. The phrase, “lifetime warranty” sounds good. What it means is that the engine and transmission is warrantied for however long the buyer owns the car. Okay…not bad. Not earth-shaking. But not bad.

But the radio ad I heard this morning got my goat. The copy makes the point that Chrysler doesn’t make lawn-mowers or motorcycles. It’s a car and truck specialist that, among other things, invented power windows and the muscle car.

I can only assume that the lawn-mower and motorcycle riff was a dig at Honda, since they are the only competitor of Chrysler’s that makes mowers and cycles.

To which I say…Huh? Are you nuts? Honda is the premier engine company in the world. Ask owners of Honda cars, motorcycles, scooters, lawnmowers or generators how they feel about Honda and how much they trust those engines. Focus group them to find out how the incredible performance and durability of those engines affects their perception of the Honda brand overall.

Chrysler is advertising this at a time when its credibility is in serious question. It’s latest products have fallen in quality, compared with previous models. It’s losing money. It just brought in a notorious cost-cutter and b*** breaker in Bob Nardelli to hammer the operations into something that might be profitable. And you are taking shots at Honda? Who wrote these ads?

So, am I too close to the industry to have known what the reference to lawn mowers and cycles were about Honda? As the owner of a Honda vehicle and a Honda lawnmower (best I ever had), do I know too much?

In the auto industry, moreso than others, the power of the press carries more weight than advertising. So, the take-away from this advertising by repporters is pretty important to the overall mix of media impessions out there.

When I heard the ad, I was in the car with someone I know who has been bedeviled by the terrible quality in his 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee. He is also the owner of a Honda lawn-mower and snow-blower. And he was stupefied as well.

Chrysler—-if you are trying to restore your credibility in a new era under new owners and a new CEO, you might police your ads a little better as a start.

Reader Comments

Daniel Briere

August 13, 2007 7:56 PM

I think you're mistaken. One way Chrysler can help gain its credibility back is by making bold statements - and backing them up.

antonio311

August 13, 2007 11:32 PM

I understand that Honda does indeed make a good overall engine thats reliable. But when it comes to having innovative ideas Honda has never stood out of the pact. The fact is that Honda is good basic transportation from point A to B, but when it comes to style,handling, safety and innovation, Honda is in the back of the pack, not the front. Yes Hondas quality is excellent, something Chrysler needs to work on, but if you give me a choice of a Honda 4 cylinder engine or a Chrysler six cylinder engine i'll always pick the Chrysler because its much more reliable over the long term than the Honda will be. Also when it comes time for replacement parts the domestics parts are less expensive to purchase and install over the foreign brands.
If your precieved as the leader you better be prepaired to be a target. Chrysler may not be the best car company out there but they're far from the worst. At least they take some chances, unlike the asian brands which only copy the competition.

Leroy Brown

August 14, 2007 9:24 AM

Chrysler really, really makes me sad. Car and truck specialists? What, pray tell, is special about a Dodge Ram? How about a Chrysler Sebring? Or a PT Cruiser? It's sad to see a once strong American automaker going down in flames, but burning they are.

dominic

August 14, 2007 9:50 AM

The fact that Mr. Kiley owns a Honda vehicle and other Honda products speaks volumes to me as to why this ad offended him so much. Hasnt he ever stopped to consider the hundreds or thousands of American workers either directly or indirectly that are effected by his foreign product choices? Sure, Honda has plants in the US. But where does their profit go? Japan. Where are the majority of the suppliers they use located? Japan. I agree that the ad may have been taking a shot, but what's wrong with that? Chrysler has made great strides in quality gains, productivity gains, etc. over the past 10 years - though our perception lags behind. In part, because of unfair press we get from reporters that drive foreign cars. We're trying to step up to the plate with the best powertrain warranty in the business and get slammed by elitists like Kiley.

I have Toro Lawn mower that is the best I have ever owned. I have driven Chyrsler products all my life and have had very good quality. Based on his comment on the New CEO, It almost sounds like his beef may even be directed at Chrysler's new CEO. Is he Upset with "excessive corporate CEO pay" sounds like it. Perhaps he should step back and think of the consequesnces of his actions and his responsibility as an American to an industry that has given so much to this country in terms of innovation and jobs over the decades. Or, maybe he would rather just move to Japan.

jim judd

August 14, 2007 10:19 AM

I owned a Honda once ( Acura Legend) and the engine left a lot to be desired. I even wrote Honda ( Acura ) a letter about it. If you think their engine a good take a look around and see how many Acura Legends are still on the road. Not many. My Honda lawnmower even crapped its tranmission when I sold the Acura in sympathy.

Gary Paul

August 14, 2007 4:11 PM

You are absolutely correct in your questioning of who wrote the Chrysler ad, part of which is apparently aimed at Honda. I had the same thoughts. I am an old time Detroiter but I refuse to accept the decades of slip shod management of our 3 remaining automotive icons. I can tell you that one of the founding reasons why I respect Honda is that they find synergies within their field of expertise such as in small engine design. Developing and marketing Honda machines for the homeowner that evolve beyond automobiles and trucks is a wise and natural form of healthy diversification unlike the Detroit automakers which often diversify in unhealthy manners, creating unhealthy synergies.

I often have pondered the impressive engineering at Honda and wished for example, that Ford would produce a garden tractor (like they used to), or other machines that reflect a passion for engineering! Here the advertisement is trying to impress upon me the error of my ways and that I ought to have allegiance to a manufacturer that has developed legions of automatic transmissions featuring premature failure, steering systems that overheat, disc brakes that catch on fire, and numerous general quality issues .

And by the way, who claimed that Chrysler invented the muscle car as the ad states? What about the 1964 Pontiac GTO. I think that has a shot for the claim of first muscle car.

And regarding the lifetime warranty, I recall that Chrysler introduced the 5/50 warranty (5 years or 50,000 miles) back in the 1963 model year. It was introduced to light a fire under the companies full size auto products, which were respectable yet had been designed considerably smaller than its competitors and were stalling in the marketplace. In other words the warranty was introduced more as a marketing move and did not reflect a significant newfound excellence in power trains (which were quite dependable back in 1963 and likely to reach 50,000 miles without concerns).

This latest ad for Chrysler is an inappropriate way to crow about its supposed superiority.

antonio311

August 14, 2007 6:32 PM

I left an interesting comment about a day and a half ago, and its still not posted??? What happened to it?

bernie

August 14, 2007 8:12 PM

Chrysler is basically crying out in desperation for anything that it thinks will help it sell a car.
A 'good' corporate citizen would try to sell its products on its own merits, WITHOUT slamming its competition. At this point, Chrysler CANNOT sell its products on its own merits...Consumers who are wise to the tactics simply will AVOID the Chrysler products.. Chrysler has stooped to shoveling its own manure in hopes of selling cars to the unwise..

garydanielpaul

August 15, 2007 11:38 AM

You are absolutely correct in your questioning of who wrote the Chrysler ad which is apparently aimed at Honda. I had the same thoughts--who would write such drivel--only a guy who did not study Chrysler‘s competitors nor understand what automotive excellence is about.. I am an old time Detroiter but I refuse to accept the decades of slip shod management of our 3 remaining Detroit automotive icons. Taking cheap shots at Honda can only backfire. I can tell you that one of the founding reasons why I respect Honda is because of the synergies they exploit within their field of expertise, such as in small engine design. Developing and marketing Honda machines for the homeowner that evolve beyond automobiles and trucks is a wise and natural form of healthy diversification unlike the Detroit automakers which often diversify in unhealthy manners, creating unhealthy synergies, such as poorly thought out “alliances.”

I often have pondered the impressive engineering at Honda and wished for example, that Ford would produce a garden tractor (like they used to), or other machines that reflect a passion for engineering! Heck Honda may now be moving into serious jet production. Perhaps Chrysler should claim that they don’t produce jets like some other car companies, they just developed legions of automatic transmissions featuring premature failure, steering systems that overheat, disc brakes that catch on fire, and numerous general quality issues.

And by the way, who claimed that Chrysler invented the muscle car as the ad states? What about the 1964 Pontiac GTO. I think that has a shot for the claim of first muscle car with a high-performance engine stuffed into a smaller mid-sized body, and adding heavy duty suspension, frame, and sporty details.

Regarding the lifetime warranty, I recall that Chrysler introduced the 5/50 warranty (5 years or 50,000 miles) back in the 1963 model year. It was introduced to light a fire under the companies full size auto products, which were respectable yet had been designed considerably smaller than its competitors and were stalling in the marketplace. In other words the warranty was introduced more as a marketing move and did not reflect a significant newfound excellence in power trains (which were quite dependable back in 1963 and likely to reach 50,000 miles without concerns anyway), which Chrysler appears to be indicating with today’s ads.

This latest ad for Chrysler is an inappropriate way to crow about its supposed superiority.

Raval Seojattan

August 17, 2007 3:29 PM

This is a prime example of what is wrong with the U.S. Auto industry. They focus on everything else but making quality products to drive sales.

Instead of taking pot shots at Honda, Chrysler should use them as a role model on how to build a product of quality.

BTW those lawnmower and motorcycles have led to better car engines.

James

October 3, 2007 10:28 PM

The Chrysler 5.7 Hemi engine is rated by wards automotive as one of the 10 best engines in the world. If you think honda and toyota are so good go down to the dealers and see how many of their new cars are in for warrenty work. I bought a new 2006 honda and the front wndshield leaked when it rained. They had to put a new wnidshield in to get it to stop. All you who own these things are lieing to yourselfs. They give you a good price when you buy and take you to the cleaners when you need it repaired.Chrysler just offered this lifetime powertrain warrenty and you cant stand it because the japanese wont do the same because they need to make their money off of your stupidity.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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