Since Fiat was reintroduced to the United States in 2011, the Italian brand has stretched the advertising envelope.
But a new animated spot set to debut on Gas Station TV this month touting the fuel and ecological advantages of a Fiat 500 minicar may be the brand's most wry offering yet.
The one-minute commercial features animated woodland creatures -- a rabbit, a badger, a squirrel -- talking sweetly about how smart it would be for consumers to stop spending so much money on gasoline and buy a Fiat 500.
But the lovable critters' tone and demeanor turn darker when they start implying what might happen if consumers don't follow their advice.
"We think you should get a Fiat, if you know what's good for you," suggests a suddenly evil-looking rabbit.
"We have several friends in the bear community. You know what I'm saying, right?" says the badger, as a large brown bear stands in the background and threateningly drags a claw across its own neck.
"Sometimes people go missing, you know," chimes in the acorn-toting squirrel.
The voice work in the spot, by ad agency Doner, is as saccharine as a Saturday morning cartoon for 6-year-olds.
But the script is right out of gangster movies such as Goodfellas or Casino or The Godfather. In fact, play it a few times, and you realize that Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta would be perfect for the roles.
Fiat's sales results in North America may not have gone according to plan since the brand was re-introduced here, but give credit where credit is due: Its advertising has been among the most creative anywhere -- and I'm not just saying that because there's a raccoon with a gun pointed at my head, if you know what I mean.
--Larry P. Vellequette is a reporter for Automotive News.