Shaking Off the Rust and Getting Back In Your Face
By Mike Anderson
Imported From Detroit. I love it.
It may not be everybody’s cup of tea – either the ad campaign or the city it celebrates – but Chrysler’s continuing effort to sell big, new cars on the back of civic pride works just fine for me. The TV spots are just enough parts poignant, defiant, stark, and, yes, even a little cheesy to resonate with a guy who, when it comes to being on the receiving end of shtick, would normally brush it off like an 85-year-old man walking into a furniture store and smack into a Guy Smiley wannabe working the floor: “Seen it all before, son. Cut the crap.”
In actuality, I obviously hadn’t seen it all, until this year perhaps. Unveiled during the Super Bowl, the Chrysler campaign certainly made me sit up straighter than the game itself did. (Then again, that may not exactly be a ringing endorsement.) And, if you’ve seen any television at all in the past five months, you’ve undoubtedly been reminded The Motor City is alive and kicking. Judging by the changing, evolving ads, this effort clearly wasn’t a single stab in the dark at success. It’s not New Coke or Milli Vanilli; it’s pure Joe Louis, pure Detroit, in for the long haul.
This could be stepping into territory some would advise be best avoided by me, as someone toiling in this country as a guest, but the United States is failing in a once relentless trait that overwhelmingly drew so many of us here. Walking tall, with a bit of swagger: That, folks, is America. Or it was. And it needs to be again.
American manufacturing, indeed Detroit manufacturing, is just too important to undersell. It was once king of the world, and is proving it can be again. As the inaugural Imported From Detroit ad put it bluntly, “I got a question for you: What does this city know about luxury? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? I’ll tell you, more than most! You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction. And the know-how that runs generations-deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are.”
During our recent sit-down session with Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley to discuss ongoing efforts to get a new Detroit River International Crossing built, he seems to speak the same language. A new bridge as part of an international intermodal hub would “make a statement about southeast Michigan, and Detroit in particular,” says Lt. Gov. Calley. “We’ll compete with anyone anywhere. Just give us access to markets, and our employers will do what they do best.”
Eminem and/or his music may not be among your personal favorites, nor mine, nor perhaps even Calley’s, but as the poster child for the community equivalent of a scruffy, scrawny dog that’s been kicked too much, this Marshall Bruce Mathers III cat is perfect. Having Eminem, of all people, pull up to the Fox Theater in a shiny Chrysler 200 is just bang-on at so many levels.
And, truth be told, I’m much more of a Buffalo guy, an unapologetic fan of another ex-champion of a city that, in true Rust Belt gusto, may have seen better days, but is damned determined to do so again. Believe me, the heart’s willing . . . and that’s the most important ingredient.
For you, maybe it’s Cleveland, or Youngstown, or Flint, or Manitowoc. Regardless, take Chrysler’s cue and import a healthy dose of staunch American swash.