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Renault “appropriates” Chrysler theme

by Bill Cawthon on

Renault has a new commercial for its Laguna that uses the tag line “Imported from France.” What’s really a bit curious is that in an ad that is otherwise entirely in French, instead of having the narrator say “Importé de France,” he says “Imported from France” in English. It’s strange because Renaults have not been sold in North America since the late 1980s and Renault cut the Laguna from its lineup in the United Kingdom, its only current market that is primarily English-speaking.

[See the commercial]

Compounding the mystery is a Renault press video showing the Laguna on the streets of New York City. Since Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has ruled out a return in the near future, about the only conceivable reason for the video is a fun trip to the Big Apple on the company dime.

The new Laguna, the coupe version of which is closely related to the U.S.-built Nissan Altima coupe, is described by the BBC’s “Top Gear” as: “A car that gets better and better and still manages to be too boring to even consider.” Sales haven’t been strong outside its home market and have dropped even there. Perhaps Renault is hoping some of the Chrysler magic will rub off.

Renault’s Romanian subsidiary, Automobiles Dacia, has also appropriated the Duster name from Chrysler’s now-defunct Plymouth brand, using it on an SUV that is sold under both the Dacia and Renault brands. This is also odd as “duster” isn’t even a word in Romanian. In addition, Renault has hired former Chrysler co-leader Jim Press.

Renault isn’t the only one inspired by the “Imported from Detroit” commercial. In June last year, Audi USA settled a lawsuit brought by Eminem’s company, Eight Mile Style LLC, over the unauthorized use of his music in an ad that was a knockoff of the Chrysler ad. And there’s the ongoing battle with Pure Detroit.

Chrysler can probably do nothing about the imitation; maybe a scolding phone call from Sergio Marchionne to Carlos Ghosn. Renault doesn’t have an office in the United States and Chrysler, in spite of the Fiat stake, is still a U.S.-registered corporation. Worse, while France is a signatory to international agreements governing trademarks, and a fairly fierce defender of them, “Imported from Detroit” is not yet a registered trademark, thanks to the ongoing spat with Pure Detroit. So, with serious questions about venue and cause, any legal action will most likely result only in well-paid attorneys.

So, until enough French journalists make fun of Renault, asking, “Essayez-vous d’être Chrysler?” (“Are you trying to be Chrysler?”), we’re probably stuck with it. Of course, Fiat could start marketing the Lancia Flavia in France with the tagline “Importé de Detroit. Vraiment.”

Thanks to Mr. Source for the tip!

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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