The Chevy Cavalier is the cockroach of Midwestern states. Poorly made and horribly unrefined, yet weirdly reliable, this small sedan arguably is one of the main reasons why there are no modern GM small cars in the United States anymore. For years, Americans bought these dumpy little cars out of habit, until consumers finally realized that literally, all competitors were better. Still, this car made it all the way to Japan, representing America as the Toyota Cavalier. But the most exciting part of the Cavalier’s Japanese presence was the ads used to sell it there.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the Cavalier. It wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t completely awful. It’s just that a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla was, well, better. That didn’t stop GM from trying to house its small cars on the global public in the 1990s, though. Its hubris (and a reciprocal trade agreement that saw the Toyota Corolla rebadged as a GM product), saw the Chevy Cavalier rewarmed and revised for the Japanese market, as a Toyota.
It didn’t look bad, either. With uplevel wheels, wider front fenders, and marker lights somehow made the car look way more expensive than it ever looked in the United States.
According to Automotive News, the actual deal between the automakers was inked on Nov. 19, 1993, and the Toyota Cavalier’s life began in 1996.
“The symbolic deal that created the Toyota Cavalier was designed to help open the largely closed Japanese market for American imports. Under the plan, Toyota would sell 20,000 Cavaliers at its Japanese dealerships every year. The arrangement was derided by some as a crass political ploy by Toyota to undercut America’s trade hawks at a time when sales of Japanese light-vehicle imports in the U.S. were soaring,” AN reported.
Despite the Toyota emblems on this version of the Cavalier, Toyota and GM really wanted to play up the whole “American car in Japan” thing. How did they do that? Well, by using the most patriotic song ever to exist: the National Anthem.
But of course, not the solemn version of the National Anthem we sing at a Baseball game. Nope, we got several jazzy, pop-style remixes of the national anthem. It’s giving me a real Simpsons “Party Posse” Yvan Eht Nioj, vibe. Yeah if you don’t remember that, please, indulge yourself in this 2001 classic:
Anyway back on the Toyota channel, there isn’t even just one national anthem remix… there’s another one! This second ad has a different arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Predictably, the Japanese public wasn’t as fired up by the novelty of an American compact car and the Toyota Cavalier flopped. Most of the handful that were sold eventually ended up exported out to New Zealand and Australia. Awkwardly sized and priced for the Japanese market, the American charm and revisions by Toyota couldn’t disguise the fact the Cavalier was kind of a lousy car.
Oh well, the adverts were still cool as heck.