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5 Of The Best Car Commercials (And 5 Of The Worst)

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Jennifer Lopez in an ad for the 2012 Fiat 500c

Jennifer Lopez in an ad for the 2012 Fiat 500c

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Maybe it's just us, maybe it's the dog days of summer, but it seems as if auto advertising has slowed to a standstill.

We know that's not the case -- car commercials, like time, wait for no man, woman, or manbearpig. They flood the airwaves, the interwebs, and all points in-between with touching, hilarious, inane, WTF goodness all year long.

But now, as we're patiently waiting for the arrival of many 2014 models, maybe not so much. 

And so, we've resorted to that nauseating dead-end of human thought: nostalgia. 

We took a completely un-scientific poll of our fellow High Gear Media staffers to devise a short-list of the best and worst car commercials in memory. And by "memory", we generally mean "recent memory", because, you know, the old gray mare ain't what she used to be. We know we're going to leave out a few of your faves, but here goes.


Chevrolet: "See the USA in Your Chevrolet (with Dinah Shore)"

At first glance, this clip looks like it's more about Dinah Shore than Chevrolet, but that jingle proved to be very catchy, indeed. A great voice, an earworm of a tune: it's like Making Memorable Commercials 101. 

Ford: "Police chase" ad for the Mustang Shelby GT

We've seen this clip's punch line used many, many times in recent years, but Ford used it first -- and perhaps most successfully. 

Alternate: "Coming Home" Mustang ad. Clocking in at nearly five minutes, it's more of a featurette than a commercial, which gives it an unfair advantage in the narrative department. But you still can't help loving the end. 

Lexus: "Champagne glass" ad for the LS400

Nothing says "luxury automobile" like a sleek sedan going nearly 150 mph on a dynamometer with a pyramid of champagne coupes balanced on its hood. Well, nothing except taking corners with a hard-working diamond-cutter in the backseat, but we couldn't find that clip on YouTube.

Toyota: "Harmony" ad for the Prius

Yeah, sure, it's a little "Kumbya", but the visual appeal of this clip made it a stand-out, and made its creator, Mr. Hide, a very hot property in the advertising world. Sadly, the follow-ups weren't as good.

Volkswagen: "Sunday Afternoon" (Da Da Da) for the Golf

Even with no dialogue and a very limited voiceover, this ad says a lot. Sometimes, it's best to let your product (paired with a nice retro tune) speak for itself. 

Altnernate: Volkswagen "Pink Moon" commercial for the Cabrio. Sentimental? Yup. Sappy, even. But it's a powerful ad for anyone who's ever taken a ride with friends that you never wanted to end.

Honorable mention: Grace Jones for Citroen

If alien civilizations want to understand what Planet Earth was like in the 1980s, this is a pretty good summation. 


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Comments (15)
  1. How could you leave out the amazing first Fiat 500 Abarth ad with Catrinel Menghia? Surely a classic ...

    (But I love the Grace Jones ad; the Toyota Prius one got wildly mixed reviews, with a lot of people thinking it was just a little too creepy to be good ... your mileage may vary, I guess.)

  2. John Voelcker - Loved that ad too... your post claimed "This video is private" ... here it is on Youtube... great ad...

  3. The Nissan GI Joe ad...absolutely one of the best ever. My favorite ad of all time. How cold you possibly say it was the worst. ?

  4. Amen!

  5. What about the Ford Ka ads? Hilarious!

  6. Wow - what a memory that Dinah Shore one is for me. The 1953 Bel Air Coupe in the first scene was like the one I drove 1000+ plus miles on a weekend to meet the woman I married. "See the USA in your Chevrolet" was the peak of GM's glorious success.

  7. Great compilation, I would agree with Voelcker absolutely !!! It caught my eye every time I saw it :-) But, also, from the "Best Commercial" list how could you not include Little boy as Darth Vader starting the Volkswagen? ....

  8. The VW Ad:

  9. If the point of an ad is to be memorable, than how in the world could you leave off the VW Mini Darth Vader ad?

  10. The best commercial in my opinion was the one with the Sheriff stopping the guy in the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and asking,"is that a race car you got there boy?" I love that one. Makes my laugh every time. I also agree with John. That scorpion taking that bikini top away in the Abarth commercial is a top five, so is she.... clearly.

  11. I think the Chevy Volt dog licking foot ad was way worse than the J-Lo ad:

  12. You left one of the absolute worst I've seen lately. The new Honda ad with the woman "spasing out" with something about hashtags. Just freakinf awful!

  13. This is it:
    Dance Party Honda TV Commercial Ad

    The worst commercial!!!

  14. The "GI Joe" ad was the worst because the 300ZX was no longer being sold when the commercial aired!
    What can be worse than an advertisement for something the customer can't even buy?

  15. Audi commercials are the worst !! like the one where this bimbo saids that she is going to need a bigger bucket because this moron and this other bimbo just dropped their keys in the bucket after seen an audi drive by RIDICULOUS ,,,they make the statement that more people are trading in their BMW LEXUS andMERCEDES for an audi ...what a bunch of B.S. in reality NO ONE !! NO ONE !! NO ONE !! trades in their BMW LEXUS or MERCEDES for an audi .....but people that do own these audis( which most have all sorts of electrical problems ) trade in these useless audis for HONDAS and TOYOTAS......why is audi wasting their money on these horrible made commercials ? that are not true.....

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