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Can Chrysler's New Line Play on the Coasts?

Shortly after Chrysler ran its 2:00 commercial in the Super Bowl, Twitter and Facebook lit up with applause for the American automaker. There was no shortage of people praising the spot featuring images of Detroit, its famed native son Eminem, and a new Chrysler tag line, "Imported from Detroit." Many from Michigan, from former Governor Jennifer Granholm to filmmaker Michael Moore, gave the spot a collective "Bravo!!!!"

As someone who spends a lot of time in Michigan and Detroit, I understand their sense of pride. After all, Chrysler said what many in Motown have felt for a long time: We're coming back and will be better than ever.

Chrysler grille
AP
Chrysler grille

It's the kind of bravado the city and automaker have lacked for years. For the Detroit area it has been reeling by the body blow of the Big Three closing plants and cutting thousands of jobs. For Chrysler, it survived despite many in Washington wanting to let it die.

But at the end of the day it comes down to this: Will Chrysler's new tag line and its refreshed line-up connect with car, truck and SUV buyers? It absolutely will in the Midwest, where it has a deep and loyal customer base. The folks here in the heartland empathize with what Detroit has gone through, and if Chrysler makes a better car or truck (which it absolutely is doing under the leadership of CEO Sergio Marchionne), then they'll give it a shot.

But on the east and west coast, it will be a tougher sell. The foreign brands have been strongest there for years but now, the Big Three are finally gaining market share on the coasts. Still, the tag line "Imported from Detroit" may struggle to matter in California or Florida or New Jersey. When I talk with dealers, auto industry veterans, and consumers in California I hear the same thing, "The Big 3 look better, but I'm still not sold."

The fact is, it will take more than a new tag line for Chrysler to win over large numbers of foreign car owners. Out on the coasts it will take new models like the Chrysler 200sedan that was featured in the commercial doing well. What the Super Bowl spot has done is show the country Chrysler is coming out with a new attitude, and this is just the start. In that regard, "Imported from Detroit" is a great start to changing the public perception of Chrysler.

Combine that attitude with a steady cadence of solid new models and Chrysler will have a swagger to match rebounding sales.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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