America’s Most Toxic Car Ads: Child Endangerment Edition

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This is the fifth bout in our competition to find America’s Most Toxic Car Ad. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to cast your vote, and cast your ballot on our fourth match-up — featuring two prime examples of auto industry greenwashing —  before voting closes on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

In a rational world, a product that’s routinely involved in the deaths and serious injuries of thousands of children every year would be immediately pulled from the market … or at absolute least, maybe kids wouldn’t be featured in hundreds of ads to sell that very deadly product.

But the world of auto advertising is not a rational one.

Today, we’re looking at two bad ads that use child actors to sell parents across America on machines that are involved in deaths of more than 1,000 kids under 14 every year, making car crashes the single largest cause of child mortality — but who’s counting? (Spoiler: we are.)

The Cadillac XT5

There’s nothing to get you in the holiday spirit quite like dashing through the snow … in a 5,500-pound SUV … while your kids are in the car … on an icy road with no guard rails.

Ostensibly an ad for the Cadillac XT5, this GM commercial actually features a trio of megacars careening at high speeds through a series of idyllic mountain roads in inclement weather. Because this is a winter fantasyland, there is nary a wild animal nor snowshoer in site, though there is a downed Christmas tree, which the Escalade swerves around with ease. Luckily, the cars — and their three underage passengers — are nowhere near the edge of a cliff at this particular moment in the commercial.

Nominator Raina dreads hearing this omnipresent jingle around the holidays because it evokes visions of grisly car crashes, even if it’s supposed to send visions of sugar plums dancing through your head.

“Siblings racing each other on unplowed roads WITH THEIR CHILDREN IN THE CARS,” she writes. “Recipe for careening into a tree and killing your whole family.”

But is this Caddy ad worse than this one from Toxic Car Ads heavy-hitter Dodge?

The Dodge Truancy

Okay, so to get this out of the way: after watching it roughly 15 times, we are pretty sure this Dodge ad does not feature the actual name of a specific car model anywhere in the ad. Honestly, we are not even sure it is an ad for a car, so much as an ad for “hot, nasty, badass speed” itself (to quote the actual ad copy, which makes us want to take one hundred showers.)

We half-heartedly Googled stuff like “Dodge SUV humongous” and  “HEMI hauler large stereo???” for a while, but after the other four bouts in his competition, we are … so very tired. So let’s just call it the Dodge Truancy for now, and if you know the name of this monstrosity, please shoot us an email. 

Released in the year of our Lord 2021 but featuring three characters from the 2006 NASCAR comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby — a 15-year-old movie that we have not thought about since it was released, and that we are guessing the Dodge team may not realize is a satire — this ad features A+ dad Reese Bobby pulling his son out of school (along with his son’s best friend, a child to whom he is not a legal guardian) and taking the two hilariously bewigged youngsters on a dangerous romp in his Dodge SUV.

Or, as nominator Robert put it:

“Flooring it through a suburban neighborhood near a school, smashing thru a parking lot gate arm, stealing a boat, and running for the border,” he wrote. “What’s not to like?”

Along the way, “semi-legal” fireworks are exploded in the public right of way, “stupidity” is openly celebrated, gratuitous product placement is ironed onto child-size racing jumpsuits, and the probable kidnapping of a minor escalates to an international incident. Oh, and there are a lot of American flags.

There’s a lot to unpack here … but we’ll save that for the next round if this pungently toxic ad makes it through. Let’s get your votes first.

Vote now! Polls are remain open until Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Which commercial deserves the title of America's Most Toxic Car Ad?

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There's no better example of cognitive dissonance than a car commercial like this telling drivers to please obey all traffic laws. Still from Jeep

Submit Your Most #ToxicCarAds Today

Last week, we put out our initial call for nominations in our quest to find America's most aggressive, violent, and all-around toxic car commercials. We're still looking for your worst — but we thought some Streetsblog readers could use a little inspiration first.