A former auto dealer making a self-funded run for governor of Michigan wants voters to see the race as a competition between a Pontiac GTO and a Yugo.
That's the comparison that Republican Kevin Rinke made last week in a TV commercial to kick off his bid to unseat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a first-term Democrat.
The ad features Rinke driving a 1969 Pontiac GTO muscle car on a racetrack and likening Whitmer to the Yugoslavian econobox widely considered among the worst vehicles ever built.
"Gretchen Whitmer, she's straight out of the assembly line of disastrous career politicians," Rinke says in the ad. "She's a Yugo."
Yugo sales ended in the U.S. nearly 30 years ago, though the car is still known in auto-centric Michigan for its poor quality and a 1989 incident in which one plunged off the Mackinac Bridge.
Rinke, who used to own one of the top Pontiac dealerships in the world, is committing $10 million of his personal wealth toward what is so far an 11-person battle for the Republican nomination. He has largely been out of the Detroit-area automotive dealership scene for more than a decade after selling Rinke Automotive Group in 2000 to Penske Automotive, then called UnitedAuto Group.
Rinke later worked for UnitedAuto before becoming an executive at Sonic Automotive.