September 22, 2005, ZNET
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."
"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.
Due to speeding.
And irresponsible ads like the DaimlerChrysler ad are just fueling the fire.