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America’s Most Toxic Car Ads: Infiniti vs. Cadillac

1:57 PM PDT on October 21, 2021

Editor's Note: This is the last quarterfinal bout in our competition to find America's Most Toxic Car Ad. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom to vote, and click back to our third bout, Dodge vs. Mercedes Benz, before polls close on Friday, Oct. 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

When most people think about "family values," they don't usually think about violent driver aggression — unless they've bought into American car culture, that is.

Today, we're rounding out the quarterfinals with two toxic car ads in which owning and driving fast, expensive cars has become a feature of daily life for the nuclear family ... emphasis on the "nuclear." And if a few bystanders almost get killed along the way, well, that's just the price we pay for the "American way."

Or, as our guest commentator and veteran adman-turned-sustainable-transportation-advocate Tom Flood puts it: "One is based around recklessly racing to a marathon, and the other is as painful to watch as running a marathon."

Let's step up to the starting line.

The Infinity QX60

In round one, this bad ad just barely squeaked out a 51 to 49 percent win against a Nissan spot featuring Captain Marvel herself that Streetsblog staff thought was a sure bet to go the distance. (Sorry, Brie Larson!) But it might very well sprint into the lead in this round, thanks to its especially outrageous take on a stereotype we've seen again and again in this contest: the eerily pedestrian-free downtown.

"Empty streets are a staple of car ads, but this time they really cranked up the absurdity," said Flood. "In this fantasyland, our hero family is rushing (or as anyone outside our auto-reverent culture would call it, racing recklessly) to see their mom finish a marathon. But all the traffic and marathon viewers have just magically disappeared, and they easily find a parking spot right at the finish line...which, of course, they aggressively back into."

In reality, of course, reckless driving isn't a great way for families to bond — because, far too often, car crashes are the very thing that tears them apart. More than 800 kids are killed in vehicle collisions in America every year, and the bereaved parents of those children have long been at the forefront of the movement to end all traffic deaths on our roads.

But Flood says Infiniti did get one thing right ... even if it's a huge bummer.

"Sadly, the fact that the police do nothing as the dad violently turns his vehicle and speeds right past them is pretty realistic," Flood said. "Nice to see some honesty in this world of deceit."

The Cadillac ELR Coupe

The aggressive workaholic at the center of this Cadillac commercial would probably be furious that he only beat out a rival Ford ad by 32 points in round one, but it was still a pretty serious whomping — especially for a borderline nonsensical ad that ends with a bit of smarmy French.

Our guest commentator, meanwhile, isn't exactly surprised that it won by such a landslide.

"This is truly awful," Flood said. "In an incomprehensible jumble of copy, this father passes his kids and partner without a word to them, because they're just more faceless obstacles in the way of his life’s purpose: relentless work and consumption. It’s a tremendous example for his kids to mirror."

Flood isn't just offended by this ad as a parent. He's also offended as a human being and road user who doesn't want to die a premature death — whether under the wheels of a Cadillac, or from coronary-artery disease, which correlates highly with overwork.

"We have been poisoned by a culture of rush, where the busier you are, the more our society celebrates you," he continued. "But burnout (no auto pun intended) and stress are extremely real mental-health issues that affect so many people. Bravo to Cadillac on marrying two extremely problematic elements of modern life and putting them together in some sort of twisted Voltron of despair.

"But what do I know?" he added. "I’m just one of those useless people who would much rather spend my time off with my family than trade them in for a Cadillac. N’est-ce pas?"

All we can say is: Oui, notre ami.

But which bad-ad dad is the worst of the two? Let's vote.

Polls are open until Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

[poll id="199"]

Here's the complete bracket if you're playing along at home.

AMTCA (5)
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