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Chrysler CEO Talks Super Bowl Inspiration

Stocks in this article: F GM HMC TM

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The origin of the acclaimed Chrysler 200 Super Bowl came during a speech two months earlier at the Los Angeles Auto Show, said Chrysler CEO Olivier Francois.

In an interview with TheStreet at the New York Auto Show last week, Francois was asked whether he was involved in the creation of the ad, which featured Eminem .

"You can't be more involved," he responded.

Francois recalled his presentation speech for the 200 in Los Angeles. "L.A. is an import market, " he said. "Presenting an American D segment (large family) sedan in Los Angeles is very challenging. And I had to plead the case that it's as good as an import. It's imported from Detroit."

Once the concept was embedded, Francois wanted to use Eminem music as part of the soundtrack. This led to discussions with Eminem, in which the possibility of the music star's appearance in the ad was broached.

The 200 is a big deal for Chrysler, Francois said, because midsize sedans represent a major segment in the U.S. auto industry, with about two million sales annually. The 200 competes with GM's (GM) Chevrolet Malibu, which had its introduction last week at the New York and Shanghai auto shows, as well as the Ford (F) Fusion, Toyota's (TM) Camry and Honda (HMC) Accord.

The downside to the spectacular reception for the ad is that Chrysler didn't have enough 200s to its showrooms to meet demand. That's changing: "The cars are coming now," Francois said. "Now you can find the 200."

Moreover, the Chrysler 300 will come out next month, which for Chrysler is an even bigger deal. "It is the Chrysler flagship," Francois said. "It is the most beautiful car we have ever produced." While the 200 was built off an existing base, the 300 "is totally new and represents a $1 billion investment for the Chrysler group," he said. "We are committed to make this car a success."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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