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Marchionne talks with WJR about Super Bowl ad

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne joined WJR-AM radio’s Paul W. Smith this morning to discuss the two-minute spot that aired during the halftime of Super Bowl XLVI last night. What follows is a transcript of that show:

Paul W. Smith: Well, “You Can Drive My Car” the Beatles always starting our 7 o’clock hour, but how appropriate and our guest would certainly suggest you can drive his car and his car will be a fine Chrysler product; could be a Fiat, could be – well, I’ll let him say. I’m not sure what he’s driving these days but it’s always a pleasure to speak with the CEO of Fiat, SPA; chairman of the board and CEO of Chrysler Group, LLC, of course, Sergio Marchionne coming off an unbelievable victory last night at the Super Bowl. Sergio, congratulations.

Sergio Marchionne: Thanks, Paul. It was a great day yesterday.

Paul W. Smith: Well, let me tell you something, you got the New York Post saying, “Clint Eastwood scored one of the few touchdowns in last night’s advertising Super Bowl; a stirring endorsement of Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep and Motown as a whole, standing out in what was a decidedly ho-hum night for Madison Avenue,” just as the start of the third quarter there was Clint Eastwood. CNN Money, “Chrysler is king of the Super Bowl spots.” They proclaim in one of these stories that Chrysler just won the Super Bowl. It goes on and on; of course our Detroit papers being very favorable about it, too; and everybody was wondering what in the world you could do following Eminem from last year, and you even said to us, you know, understand we’re not going to be able to duplicate what we did. Well, you didn’t duplicate it, you’ve certainly – you may have outdone it in terms of spreading that whole feeling now for the whole country.

Sergio Marchionne: No, I don’t know whether we outdid Eminem. It’s difficult. The message is completely different this time around. It’s very difficult when you work on these things to be objective because the message and the work that we did with Clint Eastwood and with the agency and with our people on this was so, so detailed and so gut-wrenching that it was very difficult to be objective. So I – the fact that…

Paul W. Smith: You’ve got a nice team of young guys that worked on this; young men and women that worked on this.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, and by the way, there are two people that should be singled out; one of them is Olivier Francois, who’s the head of marketing for both Fiat and Chrysler, and Saad Chehab who’s the head of Chrysler-Lancia and these two guys have just – they’ve done an outstanding job. They didn’t sleep for – and I can tell you because they were with me in Europe when we were finalizing these commercials — but they did not sleep for four days in a row, and we didn’t wrap this up until last Monday at Noon.

Paul W. Smith: Wow.

Sergio Marchionne: So when we made the final call on the musical score, which by the way is a story in and of itself because there was a young lady out of Oregon who wrote the score and was recorded with people from the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in a matter of three days; and she’s a 35-year-old kid out of nowhere who’s done this brilliant job of recording the music. So it was a magical thing that came together and I’m thankful to everybody who worked on this; and it’s a great tribute to the people at Chrysler. The commercial ultimately reflects the spirit that drives this organization and I’m delighted.

Paul W. Smith: In the spirit of the workers who, from top to bottom, helped Chrysler post a $225 million fourth quarter profit, the hourly workers getting profit sharing checks for the first time since 2005; and I know that as is the case always in a situation like this, this is really just the beginning; no time to relax; this is the time to really charge forward, Sergio.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no I think I reminded our dealers yesterday in Vegas when I met them yesterday morning that we’ve got a daunting task ahead of us for 2012 and that it should not be underestimated, the competition is incredibly fierce. I think we need to stay humble, keep our head down and just keep on pushing as I’ve always said, but we’re walking into 2012 with good prospects. January was a good month and I think this commercial yesterday has reset the tone of a fighting spirit within Chrysler and that’s the way I’d like to look at the rest of the year, and we’ll see. I’m confident.

Paul W. Smith: Well, it was – by the way, he won’t tell you this so I’ll tell you that when Sergio Marchionne was talking to all of the dealers at the NADA – not just Chrysler dealers but all dealers there, a tough crowd in Vegas, you got five standing ovations with what you said. So what you said resonated as well with the dealers as this commercial resonated with the viewers last night at the Super Bowl.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no, but it says something about this country, Paul; I mean it says something about the resilience of what America really – I think Americans unfortunately have got this bad habit of short-selling themselves internationally. I travel the world and I can tell you, Americans should be incredibly proud of what they have. I’ve had a chance to see firsthand how other places work and how they view life and I think that the fundamental values that drive this country are sacred and I think they should be protected at all costs because they’re what makes this place magic and we should not fool around with them. I think this is important stuff and we need to protect it.

Paul W. Smith: Well, and it seems, Sergio Marchionne, that we from time to time need a reminder from somebody who was not born in this country who spends a lot of time in other countries. We sometimes need a reminder. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m glad you’ve reminded us, and certainly Clint Eastwood reminded us in many ways with what he said.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no he’s a unique human being…

Paul W. Smith: How did you talk – Clint Eastwood doesn’t do commercials. How did you talk Clint Eastwood into doing your Chrysler commercial?

Sergio Marchionne: Simply because I think – I actually believed – he believes in what he says. He’s at a point in his life where he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. You know, the great thing about being 81 years old is that you’ve got standing and you’ve got stature. If anything at all, age gives it to you, but in his case it’s his career and what he’s been able to accomplish, and he felt really deeply everything he said. I’ve spoken to him. There was not a single doubt in my mind that when he spoke on the commercial he was expressing his views. You know, when he talks about the second half and you talk about somebody who’s – and God forbid that anything happens to him — but the second half is going to go longer than his runway as it’s hopefully going to go longer than mine, and for somebody to be able to speak about the future with a level of confidence that he spoke about yesterday, and with I guess a sense of serenity and peace about dealing with the second half, is something that we should all take to heart. It’s – these are unique moments, right. You can’t really – you can’t minimize them. I think they’re worth a lot; they’re going to stay with me for a long period of time because even the making of the commercial changed us, right. It changed us as human beings and so we’ll cherish it for a long, long time.

Paul W. Smith: Sergio Marchionne was watching this. I don’t know if you could be anonymous in a sports bar in Clarkston with Gualberto Ranieri, the man who’s always with you and doing a nice job for you, and I was on the phone with you right after and found that the commercial got a standing O in the sports bar.

Sergio Marchionne: It did, it did, and I think it brought a huge amount of pride back from Detroiters and I think for – it’s nice to see, and I think – and I hate to say this, but we probably deserve it after all the stuff that we’ve gone through, so.

Paul W. Smith: I think you’re right, and I think that the people across the country could relate to the fact that we can’t be knocked out with one punch. We do get right back up again and –

Sergio Marchionne: Yep.

Paul W. Smith: And the world is going to hear the roar of our engines. It may be halftime in America but our second half is about to begin and we’re very thrilled with the direction it is going right now. You meant in no way shape or form, and unfortunately with it being the silly season in politics, everything has some political bent to it but this did not.

Sergio Marchionne: It has zero political content. I think we need to be careful, and God knows, I mean I can’t stop anybody from associating themselves with a message, but it was not intended to be any type of political overture on our part. We are as apolitical as you can make us. You know, we’re just an ingredient of a big machine here in this country that makes us go on. I wasn’t expressing a view and certainly nobody inside Chrysler was attempting to influence decisions. The message is sufficiently universal and neutral that it should be appealing to everybody in this country and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t get utilized as political fodder in a debate. But you know.

Paul W. Smith: You know, it’s interesting, too, with we already know you had to spend a lot of money to get that time, two minutes at that prime time just before the start of the third quarter. It probably was relatively expensive. I’m not asking, but relatively expensive to get Clint Eastwood.

Sergio Marchionne: Yes but you’ll see this; we’ll probably issue a press release in connection with this. Clint was sufficiently – was so generous in his approach to this that any money that we’re paying him is going to go to charity. So this was not done for financial reasons.

Paul W. Smith: It really seemed like it was coming from his heart and I point this out only because it’s astounding to me because I didn’t think about it ‘til I read it from somewhere; here you have this two-minute incredible commercial with the incomparable 81-year-old director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood speaking right to us, speaking to the heart of the nation, and he not once uttered the word Chrysler.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, didn’t have to I don’t think.

Paul W. Smith: Nope, he sure didn’t have to but it’s astounding when I look back and think back. He didn’t have to and that says a lot for what you guys are doing and the way that commercial came through. Again congratulations. What a fabulous moment for Chrysler again and the hard-working men and women who have been through hell and back and continue to keep doing a great job. I don’t want to forget, too, very quickly and then I’ll let you go, Sergio Marchionne, but that was a funny and powerful Fiat commercial you had, too.

Sergio Marchionne: You enjoyed it, huh?

Paul W. Smith: I did! I thought it was funny. I didn’t know where it was going.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, but it tells you something about this house. We are multifaceted (laughs).

Paul W. Smith: (Laughs) Yes.

Sergio Marchionne: And multi-talented, too, I think.

Paul W. Smith: Multifaceted, multi-talented, but I can’t remember, that’s a hot little Fiat. What was the model number or model?

Sergio Marchionne: It was the Fiat 500 Abarth, which is going to go into production now. It’ll be available in dealers I think in the first quarter of this year so it’s –

Paul W. Smith: Talk about a pocket rocket. That thing looked hot.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, it’s a rock and roll car.

Paul W. Smith: Yeah. All right, Sergio, always a pleasure. Thanks for your support here. We’ll see you from the Geneva Motor Show. We’ll look forward to that, and congratulations on what’s happening, too, with MOPAR and the 75th anniversary of the aftermarket parts division. You’re turning out some incredible, souped-up, customized cars. I think that’s a smart move for people who want to buy cars and customize them right away; you’re doing it with MOPAR. And again congratulations on winning the Super Bowl ad game, if you will, in a big, big way.

Sergio Marchionne: Thanks very much, Paul. Talk to you soon.
Paul W. Smith: All right, we’ll look forward to it. The CEO of Fiat SPA, chairman of the board and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC, Sergio Marchionne. And boy, he has lots to be happy about and lots to be proud of as to all of the hard-working men and women of Chrysler. And the people involved in putting that thing together did a heck of a job.

Transcript provided by Chrysler Media.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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