Both Volkswagen and Chevrolet are tapping into the pop culture of boffo movies for their Super Bowl commercials.

One of VW’s two, 30-second commercials- for the upcoming new Passat- shows a youngster dressed up as Darth Vader. He’s trying to find and use his Force, while the familiar “Imperial March” from the movie plays in the background. He even surprises himself when the lights to his parents’ new Passat come on in response to his gesturing commands.

VW will also have a Super Bowl commercial for the newest version of the Beetle, although only the car’s profile is shown briefly at the end. Most of the 30 seconds shows a black beetle, the real bug not the car, scurrying through the forest in what the automaker calls a homage to chase scenes. The catchy song “Black Betty,” re-recorded by Jon Spencer and the Blues Explosion, plays in the background.

Chevrolet, which has five ad slots during the big game’s broadcast on Fox February 6, just released one on Facebook this week. It spoofs a cheesy dealer sale ad at the fictitious Al’s Chevy. The yellow Camaro on the lot morphs into its Bumblebee character from the popular “Transformer” action film and wreaks havoc.

The Camaro is on sale now, but VW’s new 2012 Passat and latest Beetle don’t on on sale until this fall. Tim Ellis, vice president of marketing for the VW brand, said both models are among the most important to the automaker’s planned growth strategy.

VW of America has targeted new-vehicle sales of 800,000 annually here by 2018, including Audi.

The automaker said the Super Bowl commercials are part of a broader, pre-launch ad and marketing plan for both models that will include TV, digital, retail and experiential. VW said it will have a presence on other high-profile TV programming, including the NBA finals, the NFL and “Oprah.”

Starting right after the big game, VW starts a digital and social media blitz, including an ESPN mobile takeover and YouTube homepage takeover to push the “VW Academy” online series with comic Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live.”

VW and Chevrolet are among the nine auto brands advertising in the Super Bowl. VW returned to the game last year after a nine year hiatus. Chevrolet was last in the game in 2007, although its General Motors’ sibling, GMC, made an appearance in 2008.

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Jean Halliday is a seasoned journalist with the nation's longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean's blog at

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