Super Bowl Car Ads: Winners & Losers

The Super Bowl is the premier place to debut commercials that can help make or break a car company. One of the big players every year is the automotive industry and Super Bowl XLII was no different. KickingTires’ David Thomas and managing editor Patrick Olsen go over the winners and losers. And no, we’re not reviewing’s two spots. The ads are listed in order of their airing.

2008 Audi R8

David Thomas: Winner
Taking on the Godfather is the appropriate way to deliver the message that Audi wants to play in the $100,000+ luxury market, which it’s new R8 certainly does. Of course, it doesn’t really replace a Bentley or a Rolls like we saw in the bed, but the ad was extremely well done and the R8 blasting down the drive was sure to win over any car guy.

Patrick Olsen: Winner
The ad took the idea someplace that The Godfather movies never went: It showed the villain gloating over his bloody (oily) deed. The closeup on the R8 grille and LED lights were as expressive as Marlon Brando, and all the guys in my family room reacted well to the ad. My favorite car ad of the night.

2009 Toyota Corolla

DT: Winner

Toyota has been taking some hits lately and has a habit of forgetting why people buy them. Pointing out how quiet the new 2009 Corolla is makes sense. A crazed badger? A cannon? They didn’t make sense but it seems any commercial with an animal works. I think they should have played up the “all-new” factor more though.

PO: Loser
Forgetting why people buy them is right, and I think Toyota commits that sin here. I think noise level is maybe 12th on the list of things Corolla buyers are worried about, and I agree with Dave that the “all-new” part of the pitch — really the most important thing for any potential Corolla buyer to know — was totally lost in the attempt at humor, which was bizarre and meaningless.

2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid

DT: Loser

Hmmm … a cartoon of a guy pushing a boulder up a hill for a majority of the ad before mentioning the hybrid Yukon or its fuel economy was a bit puzzling. And why GM picked a vehicle with limited availability to air on a big mainstream event came off as pandering to the green crowd — who won’t care if the Yukon gets 20 mpg. Where was the Malibu?

PO: Loser
I liked the concept of the ad, the artistry and the voiceover. Having it end with a pitch for a huge hybrid SUV? The ad suggested GM was saving humanity, not saving gas for gas hogs.

2009 Hyundai Genesis

DT: Losers
Both Hyundai ads came off as complete snoozers. With all the other over-the-top ads last night, I thought maybe this had a chance of sticking out among the flash. Nope. Neither one brought Hyundai’s message across about its new full-size sedan. Did people even know the ad was for an all-new model?

PO: Losers
While the Genesis is a winner of a vehicle, at least based on my time sitting in it, these ads took too subtle an approach for the Super Bowl. Having a note that says something to the effect of “Korean version shown” also raises more questions than answers for American viewers, like, “Will it even look like this here?”

2009 Toyota Sequoia

DT: Winner
I actually like the other ad Toyota has been running for the new Sequoia, in which a family takes an Airstream trailer out to the desert to go camping and stargaze. That’s why you would need a big, towing capable SUV and it’s a tasteful ad. The fact that last night’s ad showing off a totally pointless use for the Sequoia like the one last night is even better. Fu Mancho’s “Mongoose” is a totally ridiculous song choice yet awesome for what was happening in the ad. Irresponsible? Yes. But a lot of fun. This was probably my favorite of the night.

PO: Loser
I’d argue that Toyota’s overt push to snare more male fans for the Sequoia, which has been a huge hit with suburban moms I know, was off the mark. Yeah, every suburban dad’s dream is to crush 6-year-olds on Big Wheels, but I think the message was as mixed as the Corolla’s. The Sequoia seats eight, and holds a ton of cargo, and seeing all those Big Wheels strapped to the roof likely left a lot of potential buyers with the misbegotten impression that Sequoias stink at cargo space.

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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