February 7, 2012

Confession #37: The bicker and banter begins just after halftime

If there's one thing the new Chrysler (after an Obama Administration-orchestrated rescue package and Fiat's savior Sergio Marchionne took the wheel) has been able to do, it's start a conversation after a lavish and polished Super Bowl commercial. If there's one bright spot in this absolutely heartbreaking Super Bowl (look to your right to see where I live), it's that some of the car ads this year were genuinely good. That doesn't always happen.

But while Chrysler seemed to steer the talk towards their cars last year after Eminem pulled up in front of the Fox Theater in a Chrysler 200, the discussion is all about Clint Eastwood this year. More specifically, what the veteran actor and director meant when he said in the "Halftime in America" two-minute spot before the Giants squashed the Patriots' lead.

Here's the short of it: It's mostly Republicans worked up over Eastwood's alleged Obama endorsement in the ad, and I can see why. He's hired by Chrysler to read a script that basically said the rescue deal and tie-up with Italian conglomerate Fiat. It just happens what Eastwood, who played a retired Ford worker in "Gran Torino," says about Chrysler is somewhat of a mirror to what the president's re-election campaign is saying about the economy. There's no need for everyone to get their feathers so ruffled.

Sergio Marchionne
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Dgtmedia
The Chrysler Miracle, in fact, could be symbolic of the U.S. economy if the latest job rates prove consistent this year. Not to paint too rosy of a picture, but things aren't as bad as they were three years ago. In January 2009, both Chrysler and General Motors were circling the drain and companies were shrinking staffs quickly. Chrysler's problem was a little more simple than GM's: In its divorce from Daimler in 2007, it was left without much cash and a truly awful product range. Fiat took the wheel from the number crunchers at Cerberus and put some serious marketing muscle and design know-how into the company. It's worked. Sales are up across the board, 44 percent in January in fact, and the Chrysler Group is so profitable it's basically propping up Fiat as the European economy continues to slump.

Let's take out the rhetoric and put aside the fact Eastwood himself didn't think either GM or Chrysler should have been prevented from liquidating. Chysler's turnaround is truly impressive. They are no longer owned by U.S. or Canadian governments and the loans are all paid back, six years early. New products like the Dodge Dart and Jeep Grand Cherokee are seriously impressive. And don't forget how just breathtaking this two-minute ad really is. Just like the Eminem one last year, I was left speechless after watching this. Twitter was a buzz afterwards over how spectacular it was, political overtones aside. If it signifies an American economic revival, great. I'd settle just for a complete Chrysler turnaround.

We're getting to the point now where we overreact to Super Bowl commercials. Can we just go back to talking about Tom Brady and Wes Welker now? Oh, and Eli Manning, if we have to.