Bob Dylan Steps Up on Super Bowl Sunday to Trumpet Chrysler and Detroit

February 02, 2014, 11:07 PM by  Allan Lengel

Some folks have their own opinions on this, but I was always convinced that the Chrysler Super Bowl ad with Eminem in 2011 helped rebrand not only Chrysler but the city of Detroit. The slogan "Imported From Detroit" was brilliant.

I think so many Detroiters were were so blown away that someone had finally captured the essence of Detroit -- its heart, its soul, its unpretentiousness, it's grit -- without any b.s., without polishing the rough edges. It talked about a town that had "been to hell and back."

I had a retired FBI agent in Washington tell me afterwards that, had she needed a car, she would have bought the Chrysler 200 because she loved the commercial that much.

The seed was planted in the American psyche. The next year, Clint Eastwood stepped up to promote the hip, gritty Detroit image.

On Sunday night, it was Bob Dylan, the iconic rock star, who was picked as the front man for Chrysler.  He narrated, and appeared, in a two-minute ad promoting the new Chrysler 200. He talked up Detroit and America.

Granted, Chrysler is now called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and is 100 percent owned by Italians. But Chrysler headquarters will remain here in Metro Detroit and the new Chrysler 200s will be built in Michigan.

And sure, other car companies advertised during the Super Bowl. But I've become quite partial to the Chrysler 200 ads. I was hooked on the Eminem one from the start. 

On Sunday night's ad, here's a few things Dylan said in the commercial: 

"Is there anything more American than America?"

"What Detroit created was the first and became an inspiration to the rest of the world."

"Yeah, Detroit made cars and cars made America."

"And you can't import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line."

"So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. we will build your car."

Interestingly, the Chrysler 200 promoted in the Eminem ad in 2011 wasn't all that. It looked like an updated Sebring, and frankly the Sebring looked a little better.

But the new 2015 Chrysler 200 is far more stylish and much hipper looking than the previous Chrysler 200s, but still not as hip as its pitchmen, Eminem and Dylan.

James Rosen, a Washington journalist who I went to high school with in the Detroit area, had  this to say about the ad on Facebook:

 The New Yorker, from the town that is rather full of itself, pans the ad. But if you're from Detroit and you know Dylan's work well, you like the ad and get why Dylan did it. He's always been for blue collar, for the underdog, for the down and out. He's always liked the unadorned authentic. Most of all, he's always had deep empathy for the cast out among us. Detroit is a down and out, cast-out city these days, but its contributions to real American culture -- not the high culture of NYC -- from cars and line workers to Joe Louis, Aretha and Eminem -- are what Dylan digs about Detroit. Same reason he revisited Highway 61, visited all the old unknown great blues singers before they died and sang about the Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. The people panning this ad display a condescension Dylan has never displayed.

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