The Chrysler Corp. has softened its attack on Japanese auto makers in a new advertising campaign, beginning next week, to introduce its 1991 models.
``We never intended our ad campaign to be as hard-hitting as some people interpreted it to be,' said John Damoose, vice president of marketing at Chrysler. ``Now we want to make an equally strong point, but in a nice way.'As part of its ``Advantage Chrysler' campaign that began last March, the company ran a pointed commercial in which its feisty chairman, Lee A. Iacocca, took potshots at Japanese auto makers.
In the spot, Iacocca tells viewers that America has an ``inferiority complex about the Japanese. Everything from Japan is perfect ... Everything from America is lousy.'
Japanese car makers were also mentioned in other ads in the series.
In the new campaign, the Japanese are never directly mentioned, although some of the ads make comparisons between Honda and Chrysler models.
One spot begins by praising Honda: ``A good car the Honda Accord; no doubt about it,' the announcer says as a beautiful shot of the car is shown.
But the commercial quickly turns into the expected pitch for Chrysler as a Plymouth Acclaim pulls in front of the Honda. ``Compared to the Plymouth Acclaim, it has less interior room, a smaller engine, no air bag and costs $1,300 more,' the announcer says. ``Now, we're not saying the Accord is second rate, merely second best.'
Some auto industry analysts were not surprised that Chrysler changed its anti-Japanese stance. After all, it has not significantly helped Chrysler's sales, which have been in a slump.
``The Japan-bashing obviously was not working well,' said Tom Healy, an analyst with J.D. Power & Associates, an automobile marketing company. ``A 'Made in Japan' label is not necessarily a turnoff to many car buyers.'
Chrysler was also criticized for attacking Japanese car makers because it imports cars made by Mitsubishi that it sells under the Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon names.
For its part, Chrysler, which spends about $700 million a year on advertising, said it had decided to modify its approach in part because research found that American consumers do not like to see other cultures criticized.
The company also decided to concentrate on ads that compared some Chrysler cars with Honda models, which it has done previously, because it found the tactic effective.
Even though Chrysler's overall sales have been falling, Damoose said sales of Plymouth Acclaim have improved significantly since last spring, when ads comparing it with the Accord began to run.
The commercials are also more humorous than those in the past. ``It takes the edge off the criticism of Japanese cars,' said David Bell, the president of Bozell, the agency that created both campaigns.