… You miss who brought you the ad,” she said, suggesting they make better PSAs than car commercials.

Bob Grace, president of the VW National Dealers Council and owner of Southpoint VW in Baton Rouge, La., said that not only do dealers support the campaign, but some are reporting increased sales already. A few have even expressed concern about getting enough new cars to replace inventory, he said.

“The dealer group loves it,” he said. “It gets your attention.” This is hardly insignificant praise, given dealers’ traditional preference for ads that showcase the cars in their best light.

Indeed, ending the spot with the image of a crashed Jetta was a concern when making the ad, said Keller, but the team decided it was important to the message. “This is beauty to us,” he said. “You can see a pristine Jetta anywhere.”

These latest spots follow the initial campaign in February from Crispin, which featured VW’s GTI. That campaign introduced a gremlin-like icon named Fast who induced drivers to enjoy the car’s performance, even at the risk of alienating wives, girlfriends or even a police officer. That work also generated a large response from viewers, Martin said, and it generated buyers. Sales of the GTI last month were the highest in company history, she claimed, although she did not provide exact numbers.

The radical difference between the two sales pitches—speed at all costs versus safety (albeit for different models)—was not lost on some creatives. “I think it’s ironic to go from ‘Fast’ to accident survival,” said one.

The spots will run for four weeks before being replaced with new Jetta work that abandons the safety issue to focus on the Jetta driver, said Martin. She would not be more specific. The company plans to launch a new Web site next month that continues the safety campaign by allowing people to configure a new Jetta, then crash it in a variety of ways to see how the car would withstand the impact.

As for the sales approach, Dennis Virag, president of The Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Mich., said car buyers are more concerned about safety than ever before, and advertising it can raise sales. “We once said in this industry that safety doesn’t sell,” Virag said. “Times have changed. Safety does sell.”

Doc Searls, president of the Searls Group, a marketing consultancy in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he believes the ads will help VW sell cars. “Safety was Volvo’s position forever,” Searls said. “This could become a niche market for VW.”