8 Most Memorable Commercials from the Auto Industry

The automotive industry is one of the world's largest revenue-building economic sectors, with the American auto industry being the largest of anywhere else in the world because of foreign production being brought to the United States. Therefore, it is no surprise that the American auto industry has been the subject of some of the most memorable ads in history. From Super Bowl commercials with costs of upwards of $3 million to everyday television and radio ads, it's difficult to ignore the overwhelming presence of the auto industry in our country. Further, competing brands do an unsettlingly good job of creating loyalty among their customers.

Some car commercials strive to give you as much factual information about the vehicle as possible. They stress speed, fuel efficiency, and safety. In between data, shots of a shiny vehicle take the forefront, helping you visualize how you might look in the driver's seat. Other car commercials are less straightforward, relying on humor to make a memorable commercial with the hopes that customers will be charmed without the statistics of the car in question. It is often these commercials that stick with us long after their initial running.

  1. Mazda's "Zoom Zoom" Campaign

    One of many "Zoom Zoom" commercials, Mazda's campaign worked mainly by repetition of the two-word phrase. Although I couldn't tell you anything about the car by memory, the association of Mazda and "zoom zoom" sticks. Mazda has used this phrase since 2000 and, per their website, uses this phrase to describe Mazda's "emotion of motion."

  2. Chevrolet's "Like A Rock" Campaign

    Typically paired with Americana images of men in cowboy hats doing dirty work, Chevy's "Like A Rock" slogan began in 1991 and endured for 10 years before it was discarded. The slogan was effective in portraying Chevy as a heavy-duty, all-American vehicle with the ability to handle all kinds of difficult terrain and cargo. The commercial made you yearn to drive a pickup, in all its rugged glory.

  3. Honda Accord "Cog"

    While it never aired on American television, the Honda cog commercial became a viral video for its creative, one-shot demonstration of car parts interacting with one another in a sort of mouse trap fashion. It required more than 600 takes to get to the finished product. This ad shows Honda's ingenuity while keeping the viewer in anticipation at each step. It's difficult to take your eyes off the ad — and likely was difficult to change the channel mid-commercial — accomplishing exactly what a commercial aims to succeed in.

  4. Kia Soul's "Dancing Hamsters" Campaign

    It's fresh on our minds as a 2010 to 2012 campaign, but it's safe to assume that the KIA hamster commercials will stick with you … to the point of annoyance. The most recent addition takes place in an Armageddon-esque planet overtaken by malicious robots. Three hamsters pull into the debris in a KIA Soul and proceed to dance the 'bots into a stupor. Top it off with LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem and you have a commercial bizarre and cute enough to stand the test of time.

  5. Volkswagen Cabriolet's "Milky Way"

    Filled with whimsy and nostalgia, this commercial aired in 1999 featuring four kids driving around the empty countryside on a starry, summer night. The vocals of Nick Drake along with dreamy cinematics give the ad a poignant touch you don't see often in your typical car commercial. Although the Cabriolet is no longer manufactured, the commercial leaves you with a yearning to drive around in a convertible much like the kids in the commercial. It greatly exemplifies Volkswagen’s hip factor that still applies today.

  6. Mercedes-Benz "Not in This Weather"

    If you Google or YouTube search "best car commercial ever," this tends to pop up. Although it may not be the best of all time, it certainly is eye-catching and a bit controversial (even supposedly banned) for a car commercial. It aired in 1998 and features a couple in steamy embrace in a cabin, a blizzard raging outside. Flashes of a man speeding on a highway would indicate that the couple in the cabin are engaging in adulterous love on the verge of being exposed. But just as we see the car pull up in front of a cabin and assume they will be caught in the act, the man opens the door to reveal his own, blonde mistress. The tagline is "at least there's one thing you can rely on." It suggests that you can't rely on your monogamous relationship to stay intact, but at least your Mercedes is always there for you.

  7. Ford F-150's "C-123 Braking Demo"

    Aired in 2007, the most memorable piece of this ad is the small text in the corner of the screen solidifying it as an actual demonstration. It would appear that the Ford F-150 has such a superior breaking system that it can stop a C-123 plane its tracks. The impressive feat is refreshing compared to the exaggerated claims of most truck commercials, and you can purchase this vehicle with the added knowledge that your breaks will be more powerful and reliable than anything else on the market.

  8. Volkswagen's "The Force"

    Premiering at last year's 2011 Super Bowl, this Volkswagen commercial features a small child dressed up as Darth Vader, struggling to use The Force on various people and objects in his home. When his father revs the engine of his Volkswagen Passat remotely, the mini Vader jumps in surprise. Volkswagen yanks at our heartstrings with cute children, incurs a laugh at the humor of the situation, and encourages everyone to buy a 2012 Passat.

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