Chrysler is advertising during the Super Bowl for the first time since 2004, making it the first U.S. automaker in the world's most expensive advertising showcase in two years.
Chrysler will feature its Dodge Charger in a 60-second ad in the first half of the NFL championship game on Feb. 7. According to TNS Media Intelligence, CBS is selling 30-second ads for between $2.5 million to $2.8 million.
None of the U.S. automakers — Ford, General Motors or Chrysler — advertised in the game amid a sharp industry downturn in 2009 that saw both Chrysler and General Motors seek bankruptcy protection and government aid.
Italian automaker Fiat took control of Chrysler after it emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in June. The U.S. government gave Chrysler LLC about $15.5 billion in aid and now owns nearly 10 percent of the company.
But now the company is out and wants people to know it, said Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez, who declined to disclose the cost of the commercial.
"Most American consumers do not realize we have emerged from bankruptcy so the Super Bowl is a great way to reach out to our consumers to let them know we are still here," she said Thursday.
The company also added that, although the move could be criticized as a big expense, Chrysler feels it is justified considering the viewership, which reached nearly 100 million people last year.
"In fact, it would be more costly to achieve the same number of viewers in traditional media placement and ensure the high viewership attention span that the Super Bowl delivers," the company said.
Chrysler has not been advertising much, so it needs to make a bold statement — but with a humorous, eye-catching spot if it wants people to pay attention, said Peter De Lorenzo, a former ad executive who publishes autoextremist.com, a Web site that follows and is often critical of the auto industry.
"They've been flying under the radar now for so long I think they're desperate for a little attention," he said.
Foreign automakers Toyota, Volkswagen and Hyundai were the only auto presence in last year's Super Bowl — shrinking the presence of auto advertising dollars to just 8.5 percent of the $213 million in revenue the game generated, according to TNS. That's down from nearly 17 percent in 2005, a year when both Ford and GM advertised.
GM, sitting out for a second year in a row, is the third-largest Super Bowl advertiser in history, having spent $80.5 million for 15 years' worth of ads, according to TNS.
The foreign automakers, who have been taking market share away from domestic companies, continue to have a heavy presence, with ads by Volkswagen, Audi, Honda and Hyundai.
German brand Volkswagen returns to the Super Bowl for the first time in nine years, with a 30-second commercial in the third quarter that highlights all 13 of its vehicles and takes the "Das Auto" campaign in a new direction. Gone will be Max the Beetle, the talking Beetle who helped launch the campaign, but the company declined to be more specific.
Volkswagen has been increasing its market share and sees a presence in the Super Bowl as a way to continue that, said Tim Ellis, vice president of marketing for Volkswagen of America, speaking from a site where the company was filming its Super Bowl commercial on Thursday.
He said the increased presence of automakers this year signals more business for the industry this year.
"I think that they sense that there's more confidence out there and that people are going to be coming into the showrooms," he said of fellow automakers. "So we expect it will be highly competitive year."
Hyundai will have two ads, both 30 seconds long in the first quarter. For the second year in a row the Korean automaker will sponsor the "Hyundai Kick-Off Show" before the game and air three 30-second ads during that show. The company declined to say what it was spending or which products will be featured.
Volkswagen's sibling brand Audi will be in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row, with a 60-second fourth-quarter commercial for its A3 TDI, a new diesel hatchback, with music by rock band Cheap Trick.