The air bag: Cars don’t always need to be movie stars

A couple of weekends ago, I went to the cinema. Before the main movie, there was a trailer for another film. Or at least I think it was.

A scene from The Transporter Refueled. Everett / Rex Shutterstock
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A couple of weekends ago, I went to the cinema with Mrs H to see the latest Mission: ­Impossible movie, Rogue Nation. But before we got to see Ethan Hunt swinging from a plane and doing the stuff he does best, there was a trailer for another film. Or at least I think it was.

For a minute or two, my wife and I were struggling to work out whether we were seeing a film trailer or a really long, loud, expensive Audi commercial. The main star appeared to be a brand-new Audi S8, and nothing made any sense. Lots of explosions, cars chasing around and crashing and half-baked Hollywood bunkum. Safe to say neither of us will be going to see what turned out to be The ­Transporter Refueled.

I've since done a bit of research, and it turns out that this latest in the Transporter franchise is a prequel to the other films, which first started out 13 years ago with Jason Statham in the lead role. Inexplicably, it's set in 2010, making that new S8 even more nonsensical. What really gets my goat, however, is how obvious Audi's product placement is – from what we saw, the S8 should receive top billing.

I'm not alone in picking up on this, as the Hindustan Times said of the film: "If nothing else, this reboot of the Transporter franchise should do wonders for Audi sales, not to mention car safety. Every passenger who sets foot in the tricked-out, gleaming German automobile driven by the titular character is immediately ordered to fasten their seat belt. It's sound advice, because The Transporter Refueled is a cinematic bumpy ride."

The main feature of the afternoon was no different, it's just Mission: Impossible Rogue ­Nation turned out to be the BMW show, as opposed to Audi. Every vehicle to have more than a split second of screen time bore the famous roundel. Even the motorcycles in an epic chase sequence were all BMW. An old Land ­Rover did get some ­exposure, but that was when it was being berated for being a bit slow. And if my suspicions are correct, it was a Defender built when the Rover Group was owned by, you guessed it, BMW.

There was so much BMW metal on screen that it really began to irk my sensibilities as a ­filmgoer. But my blood really began to boil when a Ford truck had its badge taped over and even an old Mondeo was without its Blue Oval. Is BMW paranoid enough to dictate to a film’s producers that any evidence of another car manufacturer even existing is obliterated? It’s absurd.

This ludicrous approach is, occasionally, demonstrated outside the realms of cinema, too. A few years ago, I was on a Bentley media launch in Spain. When we hacks boarded the coach that took us to our dinner location, I spied that the steering wheel had had its tri-pointed Mercedes-Benz star covered by black gaffer tape. Later, I saw that each wheel centre had been covered over, as well as the star on its radiator grille. Apparently Bentley viewed Mercedes-Benz Trucks as a rival.

I can (just about) cope with seeing James Bond driving an Aston Martin, or letting his shirtsleeve roll up just enough for us to see that he’s wearing an Omega wristwatch, but this current use of Hollywood blockbusters as advertising for car brands is completely out of hand. Don’t get me wrong, I love cinema and I love cars – I just wish the two could coexist without me getting the feeling that my entire evening has been sponsored by a German car manufacturer.

Please, make it stop.

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