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America's Most Toxic Car Ad

America’s Most Toxic Car Ads: Aggressively American Edition

12:01 AM EDT on October 5, 2021

Image: Ford

Editor's Note: This is the final first-round bout in our competition to find America's most toxic car ads. Scroll to the bottom to vote before Friday night, and don't forget to cast your ballots in our penultimate bout, Nissan Sentra vs. Infiniti QX60, before votes close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 5. 

We're finishing off our first round of competition with two ads that give a salute to America ... or at least one very specific, aggressively toxic version of it.

Today, we're looking at two bad ads that celebrate the United States as the land where car is king, driving fast and loud is a human right, and going into high-five figure debt for a pile of motorized steel is a patriotic achievement — with a few other toxic stereotypes thrown in for good measure.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Let's check out the contenders:

The Cadillac ELR Coupe

What's more American than working yourself into the ground every day just so you can afford a top-of-the-line luxury vehicle?

Delivering a barely coherent, jingoistic rant about it while you wander around your ostentatiously expensive home!

In this Cadillac ELR ad, we open on local khaki enthusiast and Desperate Housewives alum Neal McDonough having an existential crisis in front of his pool about the cycle of endless work and hollow consumerism his life has become...before he remembers that working all the time is awesome, buying expensive stuff is awesome, and taking vacations is for losers, like Europeans.

No, seriously. This is from the script:

Why do we work so hard. For what? For this? For stuff?...[Other countries] take August off. [Scoffing:] Off! Why aren't you like that? Why aren't we like that? Because we're crazy, driven, hard-working believers, that's why!

McDonough then wanders past his family, with whom he has probably not eaten dinner in several decades, gives them some cursory high fives without making eye contact, and turns his attention to...the moon landing, for some reason.

Those other countries think we're nuts. Whatever!...Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That's right. We went up there, and you know what we got? Bored! So we left. Got a car up there and left the keys in it. You know why? 'Cause we're the only ones going back up there, that's why! But I digress.

Yep, you sure do.

Several of our readers submitted this ad to the Toxic Car Ads contest, which nominator Holland rightly points out "basically touches on every toxic, capitalistic, hyper-masculine, American stereotype possible," adding that they "thought it was a joke at first."

We'd add that comparing owning a $76,000 coupe to landing the lunar rover is maybe a touch self-aggrandizing — and more than a little irresponsible, considering the country's terrifying auto lending crisis. (At least this monument to White male workaholism is electric, so it will qualify for some sweet tax credits.)

But enough of the boring old moon. Let's look at the next spot.

The Ford Mustang

We'll spare you the transcript for this 2006 Mustang ad, because, um, there isn't one.

It is literally just an auto-tuned motor growling out the national anthem at maximum decibels, while a nostalgic highlight reel of almost exclusively White drivers peeling out on various roads plays on a screen behind it.

That's it! That's the ad!

We could say something about how automotive noise pollution is literally poisoning us, just like the car exhaust that spews all over the lens at the end of this ad. We could mumble something about how crushingly depressing it is that traffic violence is so normalized that Ford execs can ask us to literally pledge allegiance to a machine that was involved in the deaths of 42,708 people the year this aired, and no one blinks. And we could also point out how the Mustang's ad campaigns are pretty much unchanged today.

But you know what? After weeks of looking at these spots, we are extremely tired. And sometimes, a car ad is just so toxic that it goes beyond language.

Let's get this over with: Which bad ad deserves the final sport in the quarterfinals?

Polls will remain open until Friday, Oct. 8 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

[poll id="195"]

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