CZECH CARMAKER TO RESTAGE STUNT

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PRAGUE-Auto maker Skoda is re-creating a commercial and inviting all comers here Sept. 18 and 19 to prove that it didn't rig an ad in which its new Felicia model is lifted by a crane and suspended by wires.

Public broadcaster Czech Television last week broadcast a 5-minute parody of the commercial in which the car ends up with a smashed exterior and mutilated car doors that won't close. The spoof strongly suggests Skoda reinforced the car's doors and body for the commercial, created by Grey Advertising, Duesseldorf. Skoda indignantly denies it.

Skoda Director Jiri Hrabovsky said the Volks-wagen-owned auto maker considered taking legal action against Czech Television. Agency insiders say the trick is to load plenty of weight into the car's trunk to balance the heaviness of the engine.

"I appreciate humor, but I'm not saying we're pleased about this program," Mr. Hrabovsky said. "We're not going to allow ourselves to be treated like this. We will take a stand now."

"There is a delicate balance between humor and viciousness," said Skoda Marketing Manager Frank Farsky. "The ad is correct. We didn't reinforce the doors. You have to balance the car correctly, which Czech Television didn't do."

Grey's public relations company GCI flew in a crisis management team from Germany to assist Skoda.

Skoda was already struggling to overcome an image problem as a shoddily made Eastern European car (in fact, the word Skoda means "It's a pity" in Czech). The Felicia model is the first created by Skoda with the help of Volkswagen. The crane commercial, filmed in the Czech Republic last year, is also running in Western Europe.

Skoda's brave move in re-creating the demonstration could backfire. When the real commercial was originally filmed, Grey wrecked the first car.

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