Gm Cars Won Starring Roles in transformers

By: Anthony Fontanelle

General Motors Corp. will unleash four vehicles to grab the limelight and take pleasure in stardom. In a product placement coup, four GM vehicles, including the all-new Chevrolet Camaro to be launched in 2009, won starring roles in the new action flick, "Transformers."

While other automakers have regularly wheel and deal to put their product lines in movies, GM's vehicles are cast as shape-shifting action stars in the projected summer blockbuster.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for General Motors to get its product in front of millions of people," said Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. "It keeps (GM) current; it builds awareness." While vehicles starring in a movie would not necessarily "drive people into showrooms like a rebate program will drive them into showrooms, it will reach people in a very different setting," he said.

Michael Bay's "Transformers" also stars Pontiac Solstice, Hummer H2 and the GMC TopKick pickup truck. "We're the heroes, all four of our vehicles are good guys," said Dino Bernacchi, who oversees GM's movie deals. "They all are cool cars that fit the personalities of the characters."

Detroit automaker's officials will be on hand for the Hollywood premiere of the DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures production. GM officials did not have to search out this film opportunity. Hollywood came to them, even before the automaker's executives had decided to show a Camaro concept coupe at the auto show in Detroit in 2006, and later to put the new Camaro into production. "This is the ruby of rubies for a car company," said Michael Bay, "Transformers" director. Bay previously worked with GM on "Bad Boys II" and "Armageddon."

The 'Transformers,' set to open Tuesday, was a popular toy line and TV cartoon in the 1980s and has a cult following around the globe. The lore revolves around good autobots battling evil Decepticon robots, with vehicles transforming into giant robots. The vehicle-robots may not have the but they are absolutely more striking!

Still, GM was not a shoo-in for the prime vehicle roles. In fact, Bay initially was considering another automaker for the Bumblebee character, which was originally a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. But the yellow Camaro concept became the inspiration for the movie Bumblebee after Bay saw a full-scale model. It is a perfect fit because "it's a muscle car and still state of the art," he said. "The biggest problem was that the car wasn't being made."

This did not stop Steve Tihanyi, the Cadillac regional/divisional marketing manager, who was then overseeing GM's movie deals, and the automaker's design staff from using whatever they could to create the Camaro and fiberglass shells in time for filming in 2006.

Pontiac's Solstice will be playing Jazz, which was played by a Porsche in the cartoon. The Solstice also had to be created because GM was only selling it as a convertible as filming began. Bay wanted Jazz to be a gray, hardtop Solstice. Ratchet, the search-and-rescue vehicle, is played by a Hummer H2 painted fluorescent light green and modified with off-road lights, a winch and brush guard in front, and shovels on its sides. Ironhide, a rugged off-roader, is played by a GMC TopKick pickup truck with a Duramax diesel engine.

The film is aimed at attracting a wide audience, which means the exposure for GM's vehicles. "The fact is, we're showcasing really exciting products, like the Hummer, like the Solstice and the Camaro, and they can be cool and hip for a new generation worldwide," Tihanyi said.

Also, the Ford Motor Co. has put its Decepticon Saleen Mustang police car in the action flick.

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