Biggest Publicity Stunts Pulled By Car Makers

February 22, 2023

It isn’t unusual for car companies to go way out of the realm of normal to generate a buzz around their latest models. Getting people talking about a product is at the core of any marketing scheme, and these companies managed to do that in spades. Some of these schemes involved teams of trained professionals and complex constructs, while others vanished without a trace. Here are the most outrageous and ingenious marketing ploys used to advertise vehicles. Our first advertiser took it up a level - or thirty - when they pulled this stunt.

Aston Martin Gets A Lift

The folks at Aston Martin had lofty ideas when they set this stunt up. To celebrate their partnership with Mount Anvil, a Central London property developer, Aston Martin had a 2016 V8 Vantage GTE Challenger hoisted thirty-one stories in the air and put on display on the top of the Dollar Bay skyscraper. The feat required a precision crane crew and a whole lot of luck, while passers-by were shocked to see the racer high overhead. The timing of the event was to coincide with the beginning of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone and set high expectations for the race.

Our next publicity stunt got us excited for a piece of futuristic tech that had nothing to do with the car.

Lexus Hoverboards

You may remember when this commercial hit the airwaves, and the stir it caused then. Lexus managed to develop a real hoverboard for this stunt, but Marty McFly won’t be nearly as impressed with it. The board itself uses two sets of superconductors contained in a liquid nitrogen bath and moves over a magnetic track built into the featured skatepark. The board itself took nearly a year to develop and features carbon fiber and bamboo wood to match the materials and stylings of Lexus vehicles. The park took another several weeks to construct once the board was ready, pushing the total set up for this stunt to just over 400 days, which seems like a long gestation period for a minute long commercial.

Car companies need to either sell the experiments their engineers come up with or stop using them to sell us cars.

Nissan’s Self Parking Furniture

You’d think Nissan would be focussing their attention on proper inspections of their vehicles instead of tinkering about with automating their office equipment. But, I have to admit that it’s pretty cool to watch an entire office reset itself at the end of the day. Nissan has also stuck this tech into slippers and pillows for an upscale Japanese hotel, so guests can always find their footwear and a seat. While it may seem a trivial waste of innovation, Nissan has been automating everything they can get their hands on to show off their cars’ self-parking technology.

While Nissan’s advertising can put itself away when it’s done, the next advertisement just vanishes into thin air.

Audi’s Mist-ical Billboards

This unusual marketing campaign from Audi was designed to mimic their H-Tron hydrogen fuel cells, which emit nothing but water vapor. Using projectors and a fogging machine that uses water, Audi’s advertising team set up this vanishing billboard, complete with ghostly images of A7 H-Tron, then removed them, leaving little more than some moisture in the air. Unfortunately, the A7 Sportback featured in the advertisement isn’t available, since Audi was marketing their fuel cell technology rather than the car itself.

Our next advertisers took their campaign to the extreme.

”Kickflipping” A Sonic

The crew responsible for pushing the Chevy Sonic on us came up with an interesting stunt to show how extreme the little car can be. They hired professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek to kickflip the economy car. And by kickflip, they meant to run it at speed off a specially built ramp, so the car did a full aileron roll. Dyrdek, who is used to throwing himself at stunts most people would consider insane, likened the experience to the thrill of performing a kickflip down a 20 step set of stairs. We’re not sure how useful the stunt was as a marketing campaign, but the little car is still in production, so they must have nailed it.

As cool as the sonic kickflip was, it just can’t compare to the pure style of our next marketing scheme.

Twingo Stiletto

The worlds of car design and fashion have been heavily entwined since manufacturers took styling off shoulders of engineers and hired dedicated artists. Renault is trying to make the driving world a more accessible place to navigate for professional women by creating a high-heeled shoe that is suitable for driving. The European car manufacturer hired Luís Onofre to design the Twingo Stiletto. The high-heel was designed with the car in mind; Onofre used perforated leather to match the steering wheel and seats, then built an accessory that clips over the heel to add stability for driving. The car and shoe premiered at the Vogue Fashion’s Night Out 2014.

Heels may draw the eye, but nothing grabs attention like our next company, who knows how to make an entrance.

High Flying Jaguar

Jaguar began this marketing campaign by asking people “what do you find exhilarating.” I’m sure whatever those answers were, the resulting spectacle blew them out of the water. Jaguar premiered the XE by giving the little sedan an aerial tour of London. The luxury automaker suspended their car from a helicopter and flew it across the city skyline and over Tower Bridge as Londoners looked on. The car was flown around the city before being placed on a waiting high-speed landing craft on the Thames. From there, the car was delivered ashore, where it drove the remaining few miles to the official launch party with a police escort, which were driving twin 1960s Mark II Police Cruisers. Once the XE reached the Earl’s Court Stadium, it was revealed to the crowd by a group of robots that performed a Guard of Honor ceremony.

Nothing draws crowds like television, which is why our next brand aired their publicity stunt live.

Honda Skydivers

Before Jaguar and Aston Martin raised their cars into the air, Honda dropped theirs from the sky - sort of. In the world’s first live advertisement, Honda broadcasted a team of professional skydivers that spelling out the automaker's name, letter by letter, as they plummeted towards Earth. The three-minute spot aired back in 2008, beginning with the crew getting ready for the jump. Radio feed can be heard as the team assembles and reassembles themselves into the lettering. This ad is still captivating a year later, watching a team on the ultimate deadline work in such unison.

In the internet age, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer data, which is why our next marketing team decided to get their own.

Renault’s ‘Real Views’

In the world of marketing, data is king. So instead of taking the numbers from social media for granted, Renault decided they would see just how many views their new Mégane was getting out in the street. By using a worrying amount of facial recognition software and cameras set up inside the vehicle, they tracked how many passers-by looked at the car. The numbers were telling, as was the feed from the lenses. Several people approached the vehicle, even looking inside, while others just glanced at it as if their spouses were watching. While the potential audience was limited to those on the street, Renault still managed to get plenty of views with this campaign.

Our next advertiser goes back to a time before the internet and completes one of our childhood dreams.

Hot Wheels’ Life Size Track

I’ll admit, this one wasn’t put on by a car manufacturer, at least not one of the usual suspects we come across on AutoInfo, but it’s something we’ve all dreamed of since childhood. Hot Wheels created a life-sized track, complete with not just a single, but a double loop that exits onto a ramp. Two drivers enter the loop near simultaneously, loop the loop then are ejected over a gap to the finish line. The spectacle was performed for a live audience who presumably wept as their collective inner-child reached nirvana.

These are just a sampling of the impressive, innovative and downright dangerous stunts car makers have pulled just to get our attention.