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Iacocca’s top car guy, but lacks street cred


Lee Iacocca, shown with Patricia Kennedy, is finalizing details with DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group to do ads for Chrysler. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Lee Iacocca, shown with Patricia Kennedy, is finalizing details with DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group to do ads for Chrysler. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

DETROIT — Chrysler has scooped up some coveted street cred in recent months, with the Chrysler 300C appearing in a Snoop Dogg video and rapper 50 Cent angling for a Dodge Charger, another of the carmaker’s models.

The momentum has prompted some observers to question Chrysler’s decision to feature former boss Lee Iacocca — an octogenarian and inventor of the minivan — in its new ads.

“Iacocca will resonate with people 40 and over, the Baby Boomers, but he won’t necessarily resonate with those 40 and under,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst at Global Insight Inc., a consulting firm. “It depends on who they’re trying to attract.

“But their vehicles say Gen X. They’re all about hip, cool, retro-looking things.”

DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group was still finalizing details of the $75 million ad campaign Thursday, spokesman Jason Vines said. But the ads, featuring Iacocca and actor Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame, already have been filmed and are expected to air soon. Iacocca and Alexander tout Chrysler’s new discount program, which allows consumers to buy vehicles at the employee rate through Aug. 1.

Vines defended the choice of the 80-year-old Iacocca, saying even his 13-year-old daughter had heard of the industry icon who saved Chrysler from bankruptcy before retiring in 1992. Iacocca appeared in memorable ads throughout the 1980s with the signature tag line, “If you can find a better car, buy it,” a line Alexander delivers in the current ads.

Vines said company tests found consumers of all ages responded positively to Iacocca. The former chairman and chief executive has appeared frequently in ads since his Chrysler days, including campaign pitches for President Bush in 2000 and ads for his Olivio Premium Products, which makes olive oil-based spread.

“He is a guy that brought a company back, not a guy that brought a company down. That’s legend, true legend,” Vines said.

Bradley Johnson, an editor at large of Advertising Age magazine, said using Iacocca gives Chrysler much-needed attention after it lagged in the employee-discount game.

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