A star-studded Los Angeles Rams beat the Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI while another year of star-studded auto industry Super Bowl Ads confirm the EVolution is here.  While Super Bowl regulars like Audi, Mercedes, and Ford skipped this year's show, BMW, GM, Hyundai, Kia, and startup Polestar showcased their commitment to an EV future. Even the Toyota and Nissan ads, while not directly promoting EVs, emphasized how new technology doesn't mean less fun, or performance.  Toyota showcased its new 437-hp iForce MAX twin-turbo V-6 hybrid in its Tundra pick-up, while the iconic Nissan Z was the star of "Thrill Driver."

In BMW's "Zeus & Hera" the terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, plays Zeus the god of lightning, and Salma Hayek is Hera, goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth. Seeing Zeus grow frustrated trying to adapt to retired life with continual requests for electric charges, Hera gets him "a little pick me up" in the form of an "all-electric" BMW iX.  To the tune of Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue, a clearly happy Zeus and Hera drive away in what BMW promotes as the "Ultimate Electric Driving Machine".

Following up on last year's Will Farrell "No Way Norway" showcasing the company's commitment to an EV future, GM continues its EVerybodyIn campaign with "EVerybodyIn Dr. EV-il".  In this catchy ad, the Austin Powers team of Mike Meyers as Dr. EVil, Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina, Seth Green as Scott Evil, and Rob Lowe as Number Two has taken over GM. With climate change as the No. 1 threat to the world, the Dr. EVil team vow to reduce tailpipe emissions and its carbon footprint by using GM's new Ultium® battery platform, saving the world so that Dr. EVil can then take it over.  Heading off to a fleet of EVs, including a Silverado EV, Dr. EVil announces "We're going all electric" with GM promising 30 EVs globally by 2035.

GM's second ad certainly made Sopranos fans happy.  Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Tony's daughter Meadow, makes her father's famous Manhattan-New Jersey commute.  But, instead of Tony's black Suburban, Sigler is driving a royal blue Chevrolet Silverado EV. The tag line: "The All Electric Silverado, A whole new truck for a whole new generation."         

After skipping 2021, Kia returns with "Robo Dog", where a neglected Robo Dog falls in love with a Kia EV6.  As it pulls away from the charging station, Robo Dog chases it down to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" all while dodging pedestrians, hopping on an elevator, and finally leaping towards the sunroof only to have its battery die mid-air. Kia's theme of "live fully charged" is showcased by the driver reviving Robo Dog with the EV6's reverse charging feature (a nod to a V2G future?) before driving off with Robo Dog in the passenger seat, head out the window.

Little known EV start up Polestar, which sold less than 30,000 cars in 2021 but promises to release its Polestar 3 electric SUV later this year, made its Super bowl debut with its "No Compromises" ad.  Polestar used a simple ad with white on black punchy words for a no-nonsense introduction.

Toyota featured two ads.  First, similar to last year's "Upstream" featuring Team USA Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Lang, Toyota aired another inspirational ad with "Start Your Impossible  ," the story of the McKeever brothers who worked together to help Brian, who lost his eyesight, become the most decorated Paralympic cross-country skier with 17 medals. Toyota's second ad "The Joneses" featured Tommy Lee Jones, Leslie Jones, Rashida Jones, and Nick Jonas, driving the new 2022 Tundra full-size pickup truck, powered by the Toyota's new 437-hp iForce MAX twin-turbo V-6 hybrid. To Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" the Joneses show off the fun and performance of Toyota's hybrid technology, even in a full size pick-up.

After a 7 year hiatus, Nissan returned, also with its performance themed "Thrill Driver" ad.   Eugene Levy, Brie Larson, Danai Gurira, and Catherine O'Hara reenact an action thriller after Larson gives Levy the keys to her iconic Nissan Z.  While "Thrill Driver" clearly promotes the excitement and performance of the Nissan Z, Nissan cleverly features Nissan's EV Ariya, first as Levy passes a surprised Catherine O'Hara and at the end when the stars leave the fictional Thrill Driver movie premiere and Brie Larson, Nissan's brand ambassador, takes her keys back before they drive off in an Ariya. While Nissan had Daniel Levy's fictional film, Porsche leveraged its reunion with the highly anticipated " Top Gun: Maverick" to showcase its cars' speed, maneuverability and performance.

For tech-based online used car retailers Vroom and Carvana, the evolution is about the ease of buying and selling online.  In last year's "Dealership Pain" Vroom focused on consumer dislike of the dealership car buying experience.  With "Flake the Musical", Vroom promotes on the ease of selling your car online.  With a made-up musical, Vroom tells the story of a woman (Ariana Rosado) who just can't find someone to buy her car only to have Vroom come to the rescue.  In its first-ever Super Bowl Ad the used car online retailer Carvana featured an "Oversharing Mom" who can't stop talking about a great Carvana buying experience, including online in person support.

EV charging company Wallbox used a 15 second ad, "Seth" to promote its home EV charging technology with the story of a lightning strike survivor fearful of plug in electricity but who embraces using Wallbox to charge his EV.

As we noted in our review of the 2020 and 2021 Super Bowl Ads, the evolving automobile industry presents many important strategic, legal, and regulatory issues and challenges for both established automakers and new entrants. Some of those for 2022, include:

  • The ability to navigate the current supply chain and inventory challenges.
  • While consumers may be ready to embrace EVs, the need for readily available and economical home, business, and roadside charging will be essential. The recent infrastructure bill signals that policy makers understand the need for a universal, seamless ecosystem for charging electric cars.
  • The charging ecosystem and infrastructure questions also include whether wide scale wireless car charging can be implemented; is V2G real; and will national and state policy makers enact the needed laws and regulations?
  • Finally, the existing state dealer laws and regulations have not caught up with the rapidly evolving auto industry fueled by new technologies, changing consumer demands, and new sales and distribution models.

Seyfarth's Future of Automotive Task Force understands the evolving auto industry and the challenges it presents.

John Skelton is co-chair of Seyfarth's Franchise and Distribution Practice Group and Keval Kapadia, a car enthusiast, is an associate and a member of the Franchise Practice Group.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.