Chrysler to Ditch 'Double Cash' for Clunkers Ads

Switches Tack to Focus on 'Summer Clearance' as Government Extends Program

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NEW YORK ( -- A week after Chrysler launched a push tied to Uncle Sam's explosively popular "Cash for Clunkers" program -- which the House voted to keep alive with $2 billion in extra funds -- the carmaker is planning to drop ads touting "Double Cash for Your Old Car."

Chrysler plans to honor the double cash offer through Monday, Aug. 3, though the campaign was originally slated to run through Aug. 31.
Chrysler plans to honor the double cash offer through Monday, Aug. 3, though the campaign was originally slated to run through Aug. 31.
"We saw the spike in the interest and decided to change our direction," a Chrysler spokeswoman told Ad Age. New ads will replace the "double cash" messaging for ads themed around "summer clearance." Additionally, while the "double cash" offer was a national and local media buy, the "summer clearance" will now focus exclusively on local media.

Abrupt change
Chrysler plans to honor the double cash offer through Monday, Aug. 3, and on Tuesday announce new incentives, the spokeswoman said, but declined to elaborate.

It's an abrupt change in tack, as Chrysler planned to run its Clunkers campaign -- which includes TV, radio and newspaper spots by BBDO, Detroit -- was slated to run through Aug. 31. That push offers all buyers of most 2009-model Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep models up to a $9,000 discount.

Under the current deal, buyers are offered a cash incentive of $4,500 or zero-percent financing for 72 months on top of an incentive of between $3,500 and $4,500 for buyers whose trade-in vehicle qualifies for the government's Car Allowance Rebate Systems program, better known as "Cash for Clunkers."

The goal of the CARS program is getting older gas guzzlers off the road. The government-backed initiative began last week and was far more popular than anticipated -- draining the $1 billion Congress allotted for the program in a matter of days.

"We're in the middle of what could be seen as some of the best sales days in years," said Joel Ewanick, VP-marketing, Hyundai Motor America. "The last four or five days for Hyundai have been unbelievable. It's one and half times more what we got after the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards."

The program has offered a sales lift to the sagging U.S. auto industry, but the off-again on-again nature of "Cash for Clunkers" has caused headaches too.

News reports last night saying the $1 billion program would come to a screeching halt on account of dried-up funds sent automakers scrambling to change, and even pull ad campaigns.

Wait-and-see approach
At Hyundai, marketers worked late into the night to make changes to its cash-for-guzzlers material and replace it with new messaging. "We had a team here till about 1:00 in the morning adjusting our website to say 'Bear with us as we try and work through this confusion," said Mr. Ewanick. The carmaker is tracking the situation, and for now it appears that Hyundai will keep running its Clunkers ads (created by its agency Innocean) through the weekend, and "will wait and see how things shake out through Monday," Mr. Ewanick said.

Assuming that lawmakers vote to add cash to keep the Clunkers program alive, Nissan North America will keep its advertising running, too. "You have to continue to advertise so that you're competitive and you get shopped," said Jordan Zimmerman, founder-chairman of Omnicom Group's Zimmerman Advertising in Florida, which does regional work for Nissan North America. "If you don't announce it, people will think you're not participating in the offer and you're outta the game."

Weighing the pros and cons of "Cash for Clunkers"

Jordan Zimmerman is founder-chairman of South Florida agency Zimmerman Advertising, which handles regional advertising for Nissan North America. Here, Mr. Zimmerman examines the both sides of the controversial "Cash for Clunkers" program that's dominating headlines today, from both a marketing and branding perspective.

What do you think? Add your comments below.


  • The program stimulates the economy the way it should: through the consumer, which not only helps economically but psychologically as well. By giving the consumer the incentive, as opposed to the manufacturer, the program fosters consumer confidence in our government and excitement at being able to purchase a new vehicle, both things our country needs right now.
  • It rids the roadways of older, unsafe gas guzzlers and allows consumers to purchase new, fuel-efficient, safe vehicles.
  • While the per-car incentive of $4,500 was aggressive, it was the right number to drive sales during these very challenging economic times.
  • This initiative will foster the purchase of other goods and services. Consumers may have disposable income that was put aside toward the purchase of a vehicle that can now be spent on anything from TVs to vacations.
  • It simply sends a good message to the people of this country that our government is thinking of them as well as our businesses.
  • We risk creating a value-proposition gap, given the level of this incentive and the actual cost the consumers have to pay in future purchases for these car brands.
  • It remains to be seen if this initiative, much like "GM's Employee Pricing," merely pulls forward demand or if it actually increases the number of sales for the auto industry this year against the forecast.
  • What do we do once "Cash for Clunkers" is over? Do we create a "Consumer Hold-out" in hopes of a further extension or some new program, thus, giving back any gains we may have realized during this time?

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