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Chrysler Unleashed

Are You a Speed Freak?

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER And ROBERT WEISSMAN

Are you a speed freak?

That’s what Daimler Chrysler
wants to know.

Everything about their current
campaign pushing the new Dodge Charger is about speed and power.

We learned about this campaign
last week. We picked up USA Today, and out dropped a glossy 23-inch-by-21-inch
color poster.

On one side is a picture of
the Charger SRT8. 425 horsepower. 6.1 Liter SRT Hemi V8 engine.
420 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph in the low 5 seconds. (The low
5 seconds?)

"Grab Life by the Horns,"
it said at the top.

Then in bigger letters at the
bottom: "Get Your Adrenaline Out of Neutral."

Flip over the glossy ad, and
there is a picture of Charger R/T in red.

And the question, emblazoned
in red: "Are you a speed freak?

The ad encourages you to go
to .

So, we went there.

And clicked on "power
freak." There is an animation of a Charger R/T ripping through
some road barriers and fencing.

We then clicked on "speed
freak." To the music of the Soledad Brothers, (Break Em
On Down), we learn that the car is "wickedly fast — a sleek
fastback silhouette slips through the wind as pure, unadulterated
speed crescendos from one adrenaline rush to the next."

Back to the glossy ad that
dropped out of USA Today.

Also, in large letters is the
following: "Remember, Speed Limits Are Laws, Not Suggestions."

We reached Suraya Da Sante,
a corporate spokeswoman, at Daimler’s home office in Detroit.

"The ad campaign is not
necessarily about speed per se," she says. "It’s more
about unleashing your desires."

What about the 0 to 60 mph
in the low 5 seconds?

"We certainly don’t want
to encourage someone to do that on 0 to 60 on a residential street
or even a highway," she says. "If you want to do that,
there are racing tracks around where you can take the car."

Racing tracks?

"Yes, there are places
where you can take your car to race," Da Sante says.

The whole ad campaign is about
power and speed. Why insult our intelligence and say, "Remember,
Speed Limits Are Laws, Not Suggestions?"

Well, it’s never appropriate
to break the law — laws are there to protect us, she says.

Da Sante says she isn’t sure
whether Daimler’s legal department required that they put that
statement in the ad.

She says that the demographic
for the Charger is a 40-to-59-year-old male, married with two
kids, income from $65,000 to $90,000, and living in the suburbs
of a large city. She says that the psychographic is someone who
is confident, self-expressive, genuine and enterprising.

What about the video on the
web site, with the driver knocking down barriers and ripping
through fences?

"That is an animated video,"
she says. "It is clearly fantasy. It’s not real people ripping
down a road. It is more like a game. Gaming graphics are popular.
It is not a television commercial where it is a real vehicle
and someone is launching a vehicle 20 feet in the air. They were
designed to get you excited and tap into that untamed spirit."

The campaign is more than just
speed, she says.

The theme of the ad campaign:
unleash.

The ideal customer is someone
who wants to liberate their untamed spirit, she says.

They are looking for ways to
go out and grab life by the horns.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton
signed a law revoking the national 55 mph speed limit.

The Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety says that one act by President Clinton has cost
thousands of lives.

Richard Retting of the Institute
says. "When speed limits are raised, it’s no surprise that
drivers go faster, and when drivers go faster, there are more
deaths."

Retting says that the auto
companies are just adding fuel to the fire.

He says that the DaimlerChrysler
ad "encourages reckless, irresponsible driving."

But the ad says — right there
in large print – "Remember, Speed Limits Are Laws, Not
Suggestions."

"Are they saying — we
didn’t mean what we just said?" Retting asks.

Retting says that there were
41,000 deaths on U.S. highways last year.

At least a third of them are
due to speeding.

That’s at least 13,000 deaths
per year due to speeding.

That would be four 911s.

Every year.

Due to speeding.

And irresponsible ads like
the DaimlerChrysler ad are just fueling the fire.

Bloody Daimler.

Bloody Chrysler.

Bloody Dodge.

Bloody Charger.

Russell Mokhiber SIZE="-1" FACE="Verdana"> is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Corporate Crime
Reporter
.

Robert Weissman SIZE="-1" FACE="Verdana"> is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational
Monitor
, and co-director of Essential Action, a corporate
accountability group. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators:
The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe,
Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org).

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert
Weissman