Tuesday, July 16, 1996

Contact: Tony Fouladpour

(801) 340-5064


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Speed Racer -- that famous lead-footed cartoon hero who starred in one of TV's most memorable animated series -- still drives his Special Formula Mach 5 race car, but in a pinch he gets behind the wheel of a high-powered Volkswagen GTI.

Today, Volkswagen announced that Speed Racer has become the German automaker's newest spokesperson. This marks Speed Racer's first-ever automotive endorsement (not counting praise for his Mach 5 of course) during his 30-year racing career.
"This GTI is amazing," says Speed Racer during a new Volkswagen television commercial in which he catapults to victory in a 1996 Volkswagen GTI after discovering his Mach 5 has been mysteriously sabotaged before the big race.
Speed Racer and his cast of characters are the stars of a Volkswagen TV commercial to begin airing on network television July 21 on NBC. The ad was created for Volkswagen by Arnold Communications of Boston.
"With Speed Racer we wanted to create an automotive spot that was truly unique and completely in sync with the attitude embodied in our 'Drivers wanted' theme. This is the first time in modern-day advertising that a car manufacturer has used a cartoon character as a spokesperson," said Steve Wilhite, Volkswagen's senior executive in charge of marketing.
The Speed Racer series -- originally a Japanese animation that was dubbed in English and began running in syndication in 1966 -- is one of the most popular cartoons of all time. It has recently regained popularity in the last few years with the celebration of its 30th anniversary and its airing on MTV and the Cartoon Network.
"There are an estimated 40 million 21-38 year-olds who, growing up in the 1960s and 70s, watched the original Speed Racer cartoon series. These people were huge fans of Speed Racer as kids and still hold an affinity to the character as adults," said Ron Lawner, Arnold Communications' vice chairman and chief creative officer. "Speed Racer will clearly show that Volkswagen is hip, different and proud of it."
Speed Racer has its genesis in a Japanese comic book. It features Speed's Special Formula Mach 5 race car and combines racing with intrigue, in the form of spies, dishonest racers an other villains. Joining Speed are his parents, Mom and Pops, his girlfriend Trixie, little brother Spritle, mechanic Sparky and a comic monkey named Chim Chim.
Volkswagen's new Speed Racer spot is an extension of its successful "Drivers wanted" communication campaign that was launched last year. "Drivers wanted" is all about driving and connecting back to life.
"Everyone knows that Speed Racer is one of the best drivers in the world. And Volkswagen makes real driver's cars. It's a natural fit," said Lawner. "Besides, even after all these years, Speed Racer can still act."

Founded in 1995, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, which is the fourth largest producer of passenger vehicles in the world. It markets a full line of Volkswagen and Audi vehicles through a network of about 630 Volkswagen and 280 Audi dealers. In the United States, Volkswagen has sold more than 10 million cars and is the top-selling European importer. Volkswagen of America imports cars from company plants in Germany and Mexico through port operations in San Diego, Boston, Wilmington and Houston.
Founded in 1946, Arnold Communications is a full service integrated advertising agency headquartered in Boston, Mass. With 16 offices around the country, Arnold is one of the fastest growing agencies in the U.S. Arnold billings have grown from less than $50 million to over $450 million in five years. Privately held, the independent agency is owned 100 percent by its senior management team. Arnold attributes its success to its prestigious client base which includes Volkswagen, Titleist and McDonald's.