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2012-02-15 10:46

FILM CAR BOOST: Who wouldn't want to own K.I.T.T? Just seeing Michael Knight in action in his Trans Am boosted sales of this iconic ride.


LOS ANGELES, California - Since the days when John Wayne got off his horse for the last time, cars have played an important part in films from spectacular stunts to wild chases with an entire industry catering to these "co-stars."

Every manufacturer knows that if it can place a car model in a box office hit, it is sure to boost sales.

Johannes Schultz, BMW product placement: "This is really big business. For automakers the presence in a film is the perfect addition to the classic advertisement."

Schultz was responsible for placing the BMW Z4 and Z8 in the James Bond movies.

He said: "You can reach an entirely different public and in the best case reveal a car in the company of famous stars before sales start. The more popular a film and the more famous the main actor, the bigger the impact."

The James Bond movies, portraying the adventures of a British secret agent since the 1960's, have always been an important stage for high-powered cars. Since the third James Bond film 'Goldfinger', the Aston Martin DB5 has traditionally been the Bond car. However, depending on the production company and the contract situation, he has also driven a Toyota 2000 GT, a Lotus and a BMW.

Bond is not the only action hero driving a famous car. Hawaiian private detective Thomas Magnum drove a Ferrari 308 GTS and Steve McQueen raced a 1968 Ford Mustang through the streets of San Francisco in the role of Lieutenant Frank 'Bullitt'.


Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in 'The Fast and the Furious' movies stuck to US muscle cars and tuned-up Japanese sports cars while Sonny Crockett of 'Miami Vice' drove a Ferrari Testarossa.

Sometimes the hero chooses to divert from the sports car to something quite different. James Bond has been seen escaping in a Citroen 2CV or a Ford Ka while the snob 'Johnny English', played by Rowan Atkinson, likes to take a seat in a Rolls-Royce.

Volkswagen Beetle

ICONIC BEETLE: Herbie not only did wonders for the movie industry but sales of Volkswagen's Beetle were considerably boosted due to the films.

The Volkswagen Beetle has always taken on a special role in the movies. In the 1968 movie 'Herbie' (number 53) outpaced all the other cars. The main actors in the film, Dean Jones and Michele Lee, have almost been forgotten but the film car made it again on stage when VW unveiled the New Beetle in Shanghai recently.

For BMW's Schultz, however, the best advertising remains the German cop show 'Derrick'. The series ran for 25 years in 70 languages and in more than 100 countries with Inspector Derrick always driving a BMW.

However, before the advertising has any effect, automakers often have to invest a small fortune and rebuild the cars destined for the film. In the Bond movie 'Tomorrow Never Dies' a BMW 7 Series had to be steered from the rear seat. Rolls-Royce rebuilt two vehicles for Johnny English's car .

Nobody knows better than George Barris how big the studios' demands can be. He's the Hollywood legend who built the first Batmobile and converted a Pontiac Trans Am into K.I.T.T for the TV series 'Knight Rider'.

Barris says: "We had the good ideas and the ability to implement them. What you saw on the screen could also be done by the cars on the road. Today they use computers..."


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