The Most Memorable Car Commercials in Recent Years

by JRO on December 15, 2013

  • SumoMe

Commercials are almost an inevitable part of life. If you have a favorite TV show, follow the local sports team, or watch the local news, you will probably see your fair share of ads. Plainly put, there are commercials for everything from auto insurance to zinc cold medicine. Yet, even with the myriad products marketed, certain ads dominate the airwaves. The most common commercials are for cars.

Car commercials vary greatly. Some commercials simply aim to educate the consumer of new features and affordable prices, others aspire to entertain or humor those watching. While “best ads” is a subjective term, there are certain types of commercials that truly resonate with the masses.

With that said, the following are some of the best car commercials in recent years:

The Force: Advertising the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, this commercial debuted during the Mecca of commercials: Super Bowl 2011. The commercial features a young boy dressed up as Darth Vader who attempts to use “the Force” to start the washer and dryer, to wake up his dog, and to move a doll. Disappointed by his lack of success, he finally attempts to start a Volkswagen. He is surprised and thrilled when the car starts (and has no idea that his father actually started the car via remote control). Not only was this commercial a favorite among Super Bowl watchers, it was an ad people sought out to see: as of January 2013, per Forbes, it had amassed almost 56 million views on You Tube.

Like so many commercials, the simplicity of this ad was one of the reasons for its success. Not only did it present an idea to which most of us can relate (who didn’t, in youth, try to make the impossible possible?), but it also captured the endless imagination that makes children so special. Of course, the fact that it featured a character from Star Wars, still beloved and iconic as ever, didn’t hurt either.

Tommy: Also debuted during the 2011 Super Bowl, this commercial features a silver Chevy Silverado HD traveling to a variety of out-of-the-way places. In homage to the television show Lassie, the Chevy rushes home and tells Tommy’s father whenever Tommy gets into mischief. This mischief isn’t exactly run-of-the-mill–it involves Tommy trapped in the belly of a whale and stuck inside a volcano.

The likeability of this commercial was largely due to the humor and originality involved. The concept was highly clever and the graphics, particularly in the segment that involved the aforementioned whale, appeared to be straight out of a Michael Bay movie. Chevy was also successful in subtly tooting their own horn: as the commercial came to a close, it is mentioned that the Chevy Silverado HD was the 2011 Motor Trend magazine truck of the year.

Then and Now: First appearing during the 2011 World Series, per the New York Times, “Then and Now” is a campaign that came about to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet. The ad features old photographs of vintage Chevrolets; the photos each correspond to the same locations where the commercial was filmed. In certain sequences, the modern-day Chevrolets appear where the vintage cars once stood.  The ad shows photos of different kinds of people (families, kids, road-tripping friends), is narrated by Tim Allen, and features Ray Charles’s version of “America the Beautiful.”

This commercial was successful for several reasons. First of all, the heartstrings: this ad knew how to tug. It offered a bittersweet montage, allowing watchers to both celebrate and mourn the passage of time. It also manifested a very patriotic element – Chevy is American-made and proud to be so – and successfully showcased the brand’s staying power, durability, and reliability. Finally, it had the perfect song choice: a commercial can’t go wrong with Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” or, really, anything else.


Xavier Danielson is a confirmed car fanatic who consistently writes on mechanics, the auto industry, car marketing, car dealerships, luxury vehicles and other kindred topics. Those interested in learning about new marketing strategies and new ways to attract business are encouraged to visit Deal Finder.

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