Marketing cars by knocking bikes

I saw a commercial tonight for Kia, specifically for the West Point, Ga., Sorento plant, in which a young, 1950s-era boy pedals down a country road on a sweet black bike. That's what riveted my attention: anything bikes. The boy continues riding, right into a Kia factory, across the floor amid the cars, as once again the narration boasts cars as "better ways to help people get around."

It surprised me for two reasons: I was unaware until this commercial that Kia originally manufactured bicycles (and steel tubing), then got into motor vehicles seven years later; and it directly touts cars as better transportation than bicycles, as Audi recently did.

That was the infamous Audi A3 TDI "Do Your Part" commercial, in which bus riders, bicyclists and Segway users are shown trying to do their part to reduce pollution production; however, they are shown as suffering for it: jostled and grimacing on the bus; pedaling through a downpour in the dark; schlepping self-consciously on a Segway over a pedestrian-clogged sidewalk. Some (Audi drivers), it claims, just "have more fun" doing their part.

I discovered another commercial out of Asia, for the Audi Q5, that employs a bicycle. This one's a draw, boasting the car has "agility that conquers the city." The commercial is shown from the bike handlebars' vantage, strapped to the roof of the Audi. We see what we think is the bike zipping through parts of town where only bikes should go. We later come to know it's the car that was driving over sidewalks and multi-use paths.

Though the Audi Q5 spot perhaps unknowingly promotes reckless driving, its effect on the bicycle is a draw. It compares itself to the bike, and likens their abilities to navigate urban terrain. It doesn't malign the bicycle or transit, as the Audi A3 TDI does, or illustrate it as outmoded or an inferior way to get around, as does the Kia.

The only common ground we can draw from these commercials for bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers: Segways are for sucks.


When I saw the commercial,

When I saw the commercial, like you, the bike caught my eye and pulled me in. I heard the line "better ways to help people get around", and immediately thought that yes, the bike is a better way to get around. It was a big whack to the head when it occurred to me they were promoting the car as the better way to get around.

Is bad publicity better than no publicity? It gets us fired up, so I wonder.

Which is the chicken, which the egg?

I appreciate your bringing this up because I never saw the Audi commercials and haven't seen the Kia one, either. Do you think it may be in part a backlash to a growing popularity of bicycling for transportation? But I also think that, with petroleum subsidized and the infrastructure (roads & parking) built solely for cars in most places, in a disappointing way isn't it correct that cars ARE better way to get around IF that's what the world is made for? Bicycles started the road infrastructure, but then cars used them and became more popular. Was that because they were more useful and/or comfortable for more people as long as they were affordable enough? Personally, I think it's a bit hypocritical not to share the road, whether in a commercial or a road-rage incident. Both are legal vehicles and made from very similar metals and materials using very similar manufacturing techniques! And both vehicle's owners/operators are human beings!