Wieden+Kennedy Gives the Chrysler 300 a Bad Fuel Economy Rap
By Chris Haak
Paging through the September 2011 issue of Automobile magazine today, I was looking at an ad for the new Chrysler 300 that had the tagline, “Luxury Feels Better Earned,” and I really liked the message. If you’ve worked hard in your life and come into some measure of success, it probably feels better to treat yourself to some luxuries. In contrast to “trust fund babies,” hard-working folks who put in the time in their chosen profession probably have a better appreciation for where they’ve come from and how arduous it was to get to their current station in life.
How do I know this? The ad for the car showed me. Here’s the full page (it’s actually a two-page spread; this is the left-hand page). If you’d like to see the photo in more detail, just click on it, then click on it a second time to see the large-format version. You can see the nice wood rim on the upper part of the 300’s steering wheel, you see a nice watch and bracelet and a nice ring on the driver. I even noticed the faux-leather stitching atop the instrument panel, a la the Cadillac CTS.
Now take a look at the closeup of just the dash below. From the angle of the tach needle, it’s clear that the car is idling (and in reality, had probably been doing so for quite some time during the photo shoot). On the right side, you’ll see the fuel gauge, which is a small circular inset at the bottom of the speedometer. It’s shown at a bad angle in the photo, but it appears to be marking somewhere above three quarters of a tank of gas. Then look at the DIC between the gauges. The trip computer is clearly displaying the fuel economy, and it’s showing a 7.9 MPG average, and a DTE of 60 miles.
Of course, I don’t believe for a minute that the 300’s fuel economy is so poor. According to the EPA, the worst-offending gas guzzler for sale in the US is the 8.0 liter W-16, quad turbo, 1,000+ horsepower Bugatti Veyron; its ratings are 8 MPG city and 15 MPG highway. The Veyron is the only car with a single-digit city number, and to bastardize the old adage, if you have to ask its fuel economy, you can’t afford to drive it. The most-thirsty 2011 300 is the AWD model, which is rated at 15 MPG city and 23 MPG highway. I saw similar figures in real life during my week driving the Dodge Charger R/T AWD.
The point isn’t to try to say that the 300 gets absurdly poor fuel economy. Of course the car was idling for a while to get such poor mileage It’s just that it’s kind of a shame that the agency that did such a great job with the “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl commercial for the 200 could have easily figured out a way to display something other than an embarrassingly low average fuel economy number on the display, or at the very least, photoshop a “1” or “2” in front of the 7 so that it showed 17.9 or 27.9.
Having sampled several new Chrysler Group vehicles over the past few weeks, I can unequivocally state that the company’s attention to detail in its new products has improved to an unexpectedly high degree. Now, the company’s advertising agency needs to do more of the same. With consumers probably a bit wary of large, V8-powered sedans because of volatile fuel prices, there’s no need to show even worse fuel economy in an ad for the car than it’s likely to achieve in the real world.