Domo Arigato!

“If you see me acting strangely, don’t be surprised” go the lyrics to “Mr. Roboto,” the robot-themed art-rock tune by Styx. It’s good advice, too, if you find yourself strolling past the latest Volkswagen auto show display.

Throwing caution to the wind, many visitors to this month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit got the chance to hop into a black Volkswagen Golf and offer wild recreations of “Crazy Guy,” the 1999 commercial in which a disturbing young man grooves mechanically to “Mr. Roboto” behind the wheel of a VW.

A wide-angle lens inside the car sent every twitch and spasm to a 42-inch screen nearby, where spectators followed along gleefully. (The original spot from Arnold Worldwide played on the screen in between acts.) Completing the multimedia extravaganza, each would-be star got to save their moment in the sun: The performances were digitized and burned onto CD-ROMs.

“It’s about involvement and creating a sense of activity and a sense of excitement,” Tim Brunelle, associate creative director at Arnold, says with a straight face. Most of the other exhibits, he adds, just have cars and “a lot of loud rock music. … We try to take it up a step.”

The exhibit, which heads to the Chicago and New York shows in the coming months, was created by Vok Dams, VW’s promotions agency in Germany, with creative help from Arnold.