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Ford, Chrysler and GM make big cameos in Drive to drive sales

UPDATED: 10/21/11 11:10 am ET

DETROIT -- A black Mustang GT tears across a Los Angeles highway with a Chrysler 300 hot on its tail.

The audience is on edge as the cars swerve, bump and battle it out.

Yet all I think is: "I wonder how much Ford or Chrysler paid for this product placement?"

It's a scene in the movie Drive.

A Ford Motor Co. spokesman confirms the automaker did provide the Mustang GT. I think Ford got a sweet deal. The movie's handsome hero, Ryan Gosling, hot-wired the muscle car to use it as his get-away vehicle for a "job."

Yet Chrysler got a good, and free, plug, too. Apparently the film's producers or writers like the brand because Chrysler says it did not supply the car. Yet, the 300 respectably kept up with the Mustang. The scene's final shot centered on the 300's stationary hub cap -- the Chrysler brand winged logo in perfect horizontal position for the audience to be sure to absorb.

One of the hazards of being an automotive journalist who once covered marketing is that what may be a benign movie scene involving an automobile tomost people is marketing smoke and mirrors to me. I catch things I'm sure the bulk of moviegoers never consider. And the latter is good for marketers who hope to plant a subtle seed in the minds of many consumers.

For example, Gosling requests a garage owner to soup up a Chevrolet Impala sedan for another "job." A Chevrolet spokesman initially said it did not place that product in the movie, but now (two days after this blog was first posted) says the brand's promotions group confirmed GM did supply that vehicle and several others used in the film.

Gosling's character theorizes the Impala is such a popular car, it won't stand out. This has to be tongue-in-cheek. Did I mention the location is L.A. -- a market where most people drive import brands?

But again, I imagine the majority of those in the audience were oblivious to that fact. They were probably so engrossed in the tense scenes that most didn't care about the reality of the L.A. car market at that moment.

Only I sit there thinking: "This is good for Chevrolet. It will play well in Peoria."

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