It’s the stuff of which public relations nightmares are made.
For the past couple of years Dodge has sponsored Motor Trend‘s “Roadkill” show, which can be thought of as a generic white-label take on Fast N’ Loud. It’s worth noting that Dodge did several promotions with Rawlings before parting ways with him and settling for the Roadkill team; the brand appears to believe that its heartland audience is best reached through flamboyant/quasi-authentic/redneck-chic YouTube personalities. What that says about FCA’s view of its customers is an exercise best left to the reader.
This past weekend, Dodge and Roadkill teamed for “Roadkill Nights on Woodward,” a staged car show and street-drag event in Detroit. There’s been no small amount of interest in this among the company’s owner base and from what I can see the event was a rip-roaring success, chock-full of Vipers and Demons and whatnot. Whenever an automaker spends this much money on any public relations exercise, there is always a tremendous amount of data deep-diving done immediately afterwards to demonstrate ROI of the expenditure via social media visibility, buff-book coverage, and mainstream mentions. Given the big turnout both online and in real life, I’m sure Dodge and its marketing partners were looking forward to the Monday meeting where they could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
As it turns out, this weekend was an absolute barn burner of Dodge-branded media exposure. Unfortunately, the Dodge in question wasn’t a Demon lifting its front wheels on Woodward. Instead, it was a V6-powered 2010 Challenger that was driven into a crowd of anti-white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, causing one fatality and multiple injuries.
The odd coincidence of a “Roadkill”-themed promotion with a Challenger-caused hit-and-run fatality in Charlottesville has pundits on both sides of America’s culture war salivating — and with this unforeseen notoriety comes an unusual, and nearly unprecedented, demand.