The Biggest Super Bowl Car Commercial Flops of All Time

Big game airtime is $10 million per minute. Might as well have lit a pile of cash on fire.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Culture photo

Know that old marketing saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?” Yeah, whoever coined that phrase probably would’ve thought twice about it if they’d seen these car companies’ Super Bowl commercials.

The risks and rewards of a big game ad are huge. With an enormous chunk of the American population watching—last year, 114 million people tuned in—brands have an extraordinary chance to make an impression. Super Bowl airtime is pricey (NBC is charging $10 million a minute this year), and there are plenty of other things—conversations, cell phones, chips n’ dip—to distract viewers. So to stand out, brands, go big or home.

When it works, it works beautifully. Remember Volkswagen’s Darth Vader commercial? Nissan's Ridley Scott-directed 300ZX ad? Ford’s GT tearing around on the race track? A great Super Bowl ad can do more than sell cars—it can remind people why they fell in love with the automobile in the first place.

But every now and again, a carmaker’s bold attempt goes horribly wrong. Take these six ads, each of which found a way to sully its brand’s image in front of pretty much the largest audience possible.

Chevrolet cuts the feed