About a decade ago, the idea of “world cars” suddenly got a lot more press and airtime, which was kind of weird because it wasn’t a new notion; it’s easy to rattle off a pretty substantial list of cars made and sold in substantially similar form all over the world—Valiants, Volvos, VWs, and a great many et ceteras. Fine. But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how differently a given car can be positioned and regarded in different markets. A 1965 Chrysler engineering paper (very interesting reading, it’s this one) mentioned that in the UK a Valiant cost the same as a Jaguar. A Mercedes E-Class is a luxobarge in America and a taxicab in Germany. And the reason why today’s Buicks are so nice is that in China the brand is cross-shopped with Mercedes.
Today’s feature film is a Mexican ad for the 1994 Chrysler Spirit. Spirits were introduced in Mexico for 1990—carbureted ones that took leaded gasoline. Fuel injection and available turbochargers came in 1991 when Mexico adopted grownup emissions regulations. Turbos went away after ’92 in the US and Canada, but remained available in Mexico right through to the very popular Spirit’s end in ’95.
So here we have an ad for a four-year-old model in its next-to-last year. If any ads ran for this car that year in the States, they probably droned gamely but lamely about great value or something. But in Mexico, well, hold onto your hats, damas y caballeros, it’s…the ’94 Spirit! Praise! Glory be! Can I get an ay-men! Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the myoo-zik!
But if we wind back the clock to 1989 when the Spirit was released in America, well! …No, sorry, this doesn’t even make the “gamely but lamely” category, it’s just lame:
Nobody but a deluded person would mistake the Spirit, turbo or no turbo, for a European or Japanese car. Not in 1989, and not now. Of course, there’s no shortage of deluded people—just read the news—but c’mon. It was an incrementally better American car than its predecessor, and compared to its direct competitors it was somewhat better, but it was equally American as them in all the ways that matter.