A new take on the right vs. left, in car commercials

GM may have never intended to foment a “rich-guy backlash” with its Cadillac ELR commercial, but it’s got one now.

Last week, Ford released a parody commercial, copied virtually phrase-for-phrase from the original GM commercial, for its Ford C-Max plug-in.

Shots — no, spark plugs — fired! Wait. Do plug-ins even have spark plugs?

It seems GM was touting the upside in the fact that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation or holidays with an ad dedicated to American exceptionalism — it even features a jab at the French. But what many people heard was this: work your fingers to the bone, sacrifice time for yourself, your kids, and your spouse. This Caddy will make it worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Ford’s targeted a few favorite liberal pet causes: locally grown food, and work that’s tied to some sort of cause. Everything, down to the casting, has been politicized. “As for helping a city grow good, green, healthy vegetables, that’s the upside of giving a damn,” Ford extols. Americans have no use for a month of vacation, the Cadillac commercial states, because “we’re crazy, driven, hard-workin’ believers, that’s why. Those other countries think we’re insane. Whatever.” Ford hit back at GM’s blonde, well-to-do corporate Everyman with a black woman sporting a ‘fro the size of Lake Michigan. And she’s not an an actor; her name is Pashon Murray and she’s the founder of Detroit Dirt, a compost company.  As white collar Everymen go, maybe  it wasn’t the best idea to cast Neal McDonough, the man who will forever be known as That Creepy Guy From “Desperate Housewives.” It’s almost as though GM was asking to be trolled.

It’s funny: the early aughts were marked with partisan backlash against gas-guzzling SUVs and the supposed conspicuous consumption they represented, especially once the country was embroiled in the Iraq war and gas prices soared. Now car companies are engaged in a high-profile politicized duel for market share over electronic vehicles.

The Ford gag just adds a little more egg to GM’s face as the company faces a serious crisis over its ignition-switch recall. The latest findings in a Congressional investigation suggest the auto manufacturer knew the faulty ignition switches didn’t meet their standards and agreed to use them anyway. GM has had to recall 2.6 million vehicles, and 13 deaths and 31 crashes have been attributed to the faulty ignition switches. Oh, and they’ve had to recall the ELR, too. Said USA Today

In those cars, the electronic stability control system software may inhibit certain diagnostics, preventing the system from alerting the driver that the system is partially or fully disabled. If the driver is not alerted to an stability-control malfunction, he or she may continue driving with a disabled system. The result could be a crash.

H/t Business Insider

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.

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Fred Barbash · March 31, 2014