Consumer Reports: Tesla and other U.S. car manufacturers drop in rankings

SAN JUAN – Consumer Reports’ (CR) latest Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which collected data from its members about their experiences with more than half a million vehicles, found that Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler and Tesla are among the brands that tumbled in the organization’s predicted new-car reliability rankings, which were announced Wednesday.

The nonprofit membership organization that provides product testing and ratings said every U.S. automaker landed in the bottom-half of its reliability rankings. Ford ranks the highest at 18, down three spots from the previous year. Right below Ford on the list is Buick, which had performed well in recent years and was in the top 10 last year. Cadillac is the worst-rated domestic manufacturer and ranks near the very bottom at 28.

Asian brands, led by Lexus, Toyota, and Mazda, in that order, continue to be the best for new car reliability in CR’s survey. Seven of the top 10 brands in this year’s reliability rankings are from Japan and South Korea, including Subaru, Kia, Infiniti, and Hyundai.

Three European brands, Audi, BMW, and Mini, round out the top 10. Audi and BMW both declined from last year. Three other brands, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz, finished midpack. Volvo finished last overall.

Tesla fell six spots from last year and now ranks third-worst (27 out of 29).

“Time and again, consumers tell us that reliability is what matters most when it comes to choosing a vehicle that will meet their families’ needs,” said Marta L. Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports. “That’s why we conduct this exhaustive survey each year—to equip people with the trustworthy information they need to make confident choices, which in turn helps drive the market toward even greater reliability.”

Consumer Reports’ prediction of new-car reliability is a key element of CR’s Overall Score. The score also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction survey results, whether a vehicle comes with key safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable.

For more information on CR’s annual #CRCarReliability survey, visit

Newly Recommended Models with Improved Reliability

Cadillac XTS Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Suburban Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger Infiniti QX60
Lincoln Continental Mazda CX-9
Mazda MX-5 Miata Mini Cooper
Mini Countryman Nissan Armada
Nissan Maxima Subaru Impreza
Volkswagen Golf Volkswagen Tiguan
Source: Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Surveys 2013-2018

No Longer Recommended Models with Declining Reliability

Chrysler Pacifica Ford Fusion
Genesis G90 Honda Clarity
Honda Odyssey Kia Cadenza
Lincoln MKZ Mercedes-Benz E Class
Tesla Model S
Source: Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Surveys 2013-2018

FCA, Google begin offering rides in self-driving cars


DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler and Google for the first time will offer rides to the public in the self-driving vehicles they are building under an expanding partnership.

The companies announced in the spring of last year that they would build 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrids minivans. Those vehicles have been tested in Arizona, California and Michigan.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, said Tuesday that it will allow hundreds of people in Phoenix to take rides in the vehicles so that it can get feedback on the experience. Phoenix-area residents can apply on Waymo’s website.

The company also said that it’s expanding its fleet to 500 Pacifica hybrids.

Waymo — created by Google in 2009 — has given rides to the public before in its hometown of Mountain View, California. In 2015, it let a blind man ride around Austin, Texas, in one of its completely self-driving pods. The Phoenix program will be much larger in scale, and it will be the first to use the Pacifica minivans.

Waymo isn’t the first to put regular passengers in self-driving cars in the race to develop the technology. Ride-hailing company Uber has had self-driving Volvos on the road in Pittsburgh since last fall. Boston startup nuTonomy is giving taxi rides to passengers in Singapore and Boston. In all cases, there is a backup driver behind the wheel.

Waymo said it wants to learn where people want to go in a self-driving vehicle, how they communicate with it and what kinds of information and controls they want.

Fiat Chrysler builds the Pacifica minivan in Windsor, Canada, just across the border from Detroit. It adds Waymo’s self-driving software and hardware, including sensors and cameras, at a facility in Michigan. Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. headquarters is in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

“This collaboration is helping both companies learn how to bring self-driving cars to market, and realize the safety and mobility benefits of this technology,” said Waymo chief John Krafcik in a company release.

Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for the car shopping site Autotrader, says studies have shown that a majority of Americans are still reluctant to ride in a fully self-driving car. Opening Waymo’s vehicles to the public will help build riders’ confidence, she said.

“The key to acceptance is exposure and education,” she said.

Ultimately, Waymo says, self-driving cars could prevent many of the 1.2 million deaths that occur on worldwide roads each year.

Waymo has made clear that it intends to form partnerships with automakers and not build its own self-driving cars. It’s also in talks with Honda Motor Co. about a potential collaboration.

Chrysler recalls some cars for loose bolts

NEW YORK — Fiat Chrysler says it is recalling some Chrysler cars because driveshaft bolts can come loose on all-wheel drive models, increasing the risk of a crash.

The automaker says affected cars include 2014-2017 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive. Chrysler says it will notify owners, and dealers will replace all eight front driveshaft bolts for the cars, free of charge.

The recall is expected to begin March 31. About 75,000 cars are affected in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

There have been no reports nor accidents or injuries.

Strong Fleet Purchases Help Auto Sales



guia-chart-upSAN JUAN – Propelled by a surge in fleet purchases by car rental companies, new-auto sales were up significantly in December, helping finish a challenging 2016 with a bang, the United Automobile Importers Group (GUIA by its Spanish acronym) said Wednesday during its annual press conference.

Ricardo García, president of the group that represents some of the island’s leading auto distributors, said 11,732 new units were sold last month, a whopping 26.4% increase, or 2,449 additional new units than in December 2015.

The number of new units sold in 2016 totaled 86,053, up 5.8%, or 4,696 more than in 2015, when 81,357 were sold.

Forecast for 2017

For 2017, GUIA’s forecast for new-auto sales ranges from 82,000 to 84,000 units.

Some of the factors considered for the forecast included the island’s fiscal scenario and possible measures that may be taken this year to face this situation, which will increase consumer uncertainty, as well as the population decrease experienced in the past years, which is expected to continue throughout 2017.

“Even though in 2016 we experienced a slight sales increase for the first time in three years, it was in fact the third-worst year in recent sales history. Fleet sales reflected the highest percentage increase in 2016, which is considered a reflection of the improvement in the tourism industry and not necessarily a change in the sales pattern of retail customers,” García said.

García said GUIA is confident that the new government can be instrumental to economic development in Puerto Rico.

“Likewise, our business partners, banks and insurance companies have contributed to making the vehicles accessible to Puerto Rican consumers, thus allowing this slight increase,” García added.

Strong fleet sales

In all, some 4,049 fleet units, mostly from Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, were sold last month, up 40.3% from same month in 2015, representing 34.5% of total units sold during the month. For the year, there were 12,229 units sold, up 16.1% from 2015, and representing 14.2% of all new units sold last year.

The strongest months for fleet sales were June (2,034 sold), November (1,720) and December (4,049). Fleet sales usually pick up in the summer and winter, during tourism’s high seasons.

Last year, there was very high demand for rental units from tourists visiting the island. In fact, most auto rental companies had no units available during the holidays.

Last month, some 7,683 retail units were sold, up 20.1% from same month in 2015, representing 65.5% of all units sold in December. For the year, there were 73,824 retail units sold, up 4.2% from 2015, representing 85.4% of all new units sold in 2016.

Japanese brands up 28%

Japanese auto distributors, the dominant group locally, reported 5,739 total units sold in December, a 28% or 1,255-unit increase from same month in 2015, with a 48.9% share of the market.

For the year, Japanese automakers sold 46,219 units, a 4.7%, or 2,087-unit increase, with a 53.7% market share.

Top Japanese sellers in 2016 included Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Infiniti.

Domestics up 17.2%

Cumulative sales by U.S. automakers FCA Group (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram), General Motors (GMC, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac) and Ford (Ford and Lincoln) in December reached 2,278 units, up 17.2%, or 1,332 units, from same month in 2015, with a 19% overall share of the market.

For the year, 14,782 U.S.-branded units were sold, up 1.1%, or by 163 units, with a 17.2% share of the market.

Of the three U.S.-based automakers, only FCA reported positive sales for the year, propelled by its Jeep division. FCA sold 7,831 units, up 10.6%, for a 9.1% market share.

Koreans up 30.8%

Distributors sold 3,278 units from Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia last month, up 30.8% from same month in 2015, with a combined 27.9% market share.

For the year, both Korean brands sold 20,284 units, up 13.8%, for a combined 23.6% market share. Of the two, Hyundai had the strongest showing in 2016, with 11,552 units sold, up 26.1%, or by 2,393 units, with an overall 13.4% share of the market.

Europeans up 0.6%

A combined 489 European-branded vehicles were sold in December, up 0.6% compared with the same month in 2015, for a 4.2% share of the market.

For the year, European brands moved 4,768 units, down 0.3%, or 15 units, with a 5.5% share of the market.

As many as seven European brands, namely Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Maserati and Volvo reported higher sales in 2016 than in the year prior.

Ferrari Raises Forecasts After Record Third Quarter Earnings

Rear view of the newly unveiled Ferrari Aperta on display during the first press day at the Paris Auto Show in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Rear view of the newly unveiled Ferrari Aperta on display during the first press day at the Paris Auto Show in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

MILAN — Italian luxury sports car maker Ferrari NV revised its earnings guidance upward on Monday after reporting a record third-quarter profit of 113 million euros ($126 million), up 20 percent over last year.

The company, based in the northern Italian city of Maranello, raised its estimate for full-year earnings before interest, taxes and amortization to above 850 million euros, from above 800 million euros previously. It lowered its estimated debt at the end of the year to below 700 million euros.

Revenue in the quarter was up 8 percent to 783 million euros ($873.7 million), helped by the success of 12-cylinder models, notably the F12tdf, the four-seat GTC4Lusso and the newly launched LaFerrari Aperta convertible. The company also reported higher engine revenues on Maserati sales and rentals to other Formula 1 teams as well as an increase in sponsorship and brand earnings, attributed to Ferrari’s improved showing on the Formula 1 circuit.

Ferrari reported shipments of 1,978 vehicles, up 29 units from the previous year.

By region, sales rose in Europe, the Americas and greater China, while decreasing in the rest of Asia due to logistical delays caused by a shipment carrier.

The group confirmed its forecast of shipments for the year at around 8,000 units, with revenues above 3 billion euros.

Shares rose 5 percent in Milan on Monday, to 48.53 euros. The stock has risen 11 percent since the beginning of the year, when it spun off from mass-market parent Fiat Chrysler.

In New York trading, Ferrari shares have increased slightly more than 6 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has dropped slightly more than 1 percent in the last 12 months.

Lexus, Toyota and Buick Top New Auto Reliability Survey

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016, file photo, the new 2017 Buick Encore is displayed during a media preview in New York, as part of the New York International Auto Show. Lexus, Toyota and Buick are the most reliable brands in Consumer Reports’ latest survey, a reward for their conservative approach to new technology. Audi and Kia rounded out the top five brands. Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram, all owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, were the worst performers. Electric car maker Tesla Motors also fared poorly. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016, file photo, the new 2017 Buick Encore is displayed during a media preview in New York, as part of the New York International Auto Show. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

DETROIT — Lexus, Toyota and Buick are the most reliable brands in Consumer Reports’ latest survey, a reward for their conservative approach to new technology.

It’s the fourth straight year that Lexus came in first and Toyota came in second. Two of their hybrids – the Toyota Prius and the Lexus CT 200H – were named the most reliable vehicles. But Buick – General Motors Co.’s near-luxury marque – is the first domestic brand to crack the top three since the magazine began tracking vehicle reliability in the early 1980s.

Audi and Kia rounded out the top five brands. Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and Ram – all owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – were the worst performers. Electric car maker Tesla Motors also fared poorly.

The magazine released its annual reliability survey Monday. It’s closely watched by the industry, since many buyers look to the magazine for recommendations.

Consumer Reports predicts the reliability of 2017 model-year brands and individual vehicles based on survey responses from its subscribers. The magazine collected subscribers’ comments on vehicles they own from the 2000-2017 model years. Around 500,000 subscribers responded to this year’s survey.

Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing, said the best performers have something in common: They tend to add new technology slowly, and bit-by-bit, rather than all at once. When Lexus introduced its new 2016 RX SUV, for example, it used an older engine and an eight-speed transmission that had already been used in another Lexus vehicle. When Buick introduced the Encore small SUV in the U.S. in 2012, it was built on a small-car platform used in prior vehicles and had a six-speed transmission, rather than the eight- and nine-speeds coming into vogue.

By contrast, Honda fell in this year’s survey partly because of its 2016 Civic small car, which has two new engines, a new steel underbody and a new continuously variable transmission. Cue the problems: Shortly after the Civic went on sale, it was recalled for engine failure. Consumer Reports said Civic customers also have reported problems with the car’s infotainment system.

“It’s the choice of making such a big change,” Fisher told The Associated Press. “They pay the penalty for trying to get it all right.”

Fisher said GM has been improving its cars and small SUVs for several years now. The Chevrolet Cruze was the top-performing small car in the survey, while the Chevrolet Trax was the top-performing small SUV. But the company continues to struggle with pickups and larger truck-based SUVs, which gets low marks for steering and suspension issues. The Cadillac Escalade large SUV is the worst performing vehicle in the magazine’s survey due to its combination of transmission problems and its difficult-to-use infotainment system. Buick has no truck-based vehicles.

Tesla – which was added to this year’s survey because the magazine had enough responses from owners – suffered multiple problems with its new Model X SUV, including water leaks and issues with climate control.

Fisher said Tesla should perform better than average, since electric cars have fewer mechanical parts than gasoline-powered cars. But it gets tripped up by flashy features like the Model X’s glitch-prone falcon-wing doors.

“The problem with Tesla has always been the gimmicks,” he said.

Nissan Recalls Nearly 4 Million Cars with Air Bag Problems

NEW YORK – Nearly 4 million Nissan cars are being recalled due to major safety problems where passenger air bags or seat belts could fail in a crash, leading to serious injuries or fatalities.

The two recalls are just the latest in a string of safety problems to hit automakers in the past year with Acura, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Lexus, Mazda, Toyota and other manufactures having to recall cars over air bag problems. The Nissan problems are unrelated to the other air bag issues.

Nissan North America, Inc. said that 3.2 million cars may have a problem with a sensor that detects if the front passenger seat is occupied and if that passenger is an adult or a child. Defective sensors might incorrectly think that an adult is a child or classify the seat as empty, thus turning off the air bag.

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 12:   A Nissan Sentra sits on the showroom floor at a dealership on November 12, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Nissan is recalling over 500,000 vehicles in the United States, including some 2010-11 Sentras because a problem with the battery cable, and 2002-04 Exterra SUVs and Frontier pickups because of a steering problem.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The recall applies to certain cars of the following models: the 2016-2017 Nissan Maxima, 2013-2016 Nissan Altima, NV200, LEAF and Sentra, 2013-2017 Nissan Pathfinder, 2014-2016 Nissan NV200 Taxi, Infiniti QX60 and Q50, 2014-2017 Nissan Rogue, 2015-2016 Nissan Murano, Chevrolet City Express and 2013 Infiniti JX35 vehicles.

Nissan will notify owners of the problem and offer to fix it for free, however no schedule has yet been provided for when these notices will go out or how quickly the repairs can be made.

Nissan is also recalling another 620,000 of its 2013-2016 Sentras.

In these cars, the air bag sensor has the opposite problem: It isn’t shutting off when it should be. The automaker said the front passenger seat belt bracket may become deformed if it is used to secure a child restraint system. That deformed seat bracket might then cause the air bag not to shut off when it should be off.

Nissan has not yet figured out how to fix the problem and is warning owners not to install child restraint systems in the front seats. It will take Nissan more than a month to notify owners of the problem and then the carmaker will follow up with a second letter once it figures out a solution, which will be free.

The Associated Press

Feds find Fiat Chrysler Gear Shifters can Confuse Drivers

DETROIT – Electronic gear shifters on some newer Fiat Chrysler SUVs and cars are so confusing that drivers have exited the vehicles with the engines running and while they are still in gear, causing crashes and serious injuries, U.S. safety investigators have determined.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in documents posted during the weekend, has doubled the number of vehicles involved in an investigation of the problem, but it stopped short of seeking a recall. The agency found more than 100 crashes and over a dozen injuries, mostly in Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Agency tests found that operating the center console shift lever “is not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection,” investigators wrote in the documents. They upgraded the probe to an engineering analysis, which is a step closer to a recall. NHTSA will continue to gather information and seek a recall if necessary, a spokesman said.

The investigation could determine just how much automakers can change the way cars operate when they introduce new technology, and how far they can stray from conventional ways of controlling vehicles that drivers are accustomed to.

Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, expects more problems and investigations as automakers continue to roll out new electronic controls that are unfamiliar to drivers. “I think the manufacturers need to be much more responsible as they try these new technologies,” he said.

The government’s probe now covers more than 856,000 vehicles including the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV from the 2014 and 2015 model years and the 2012 through 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans with 3.6-liter V6 engines.

In the vehicles, drivers pull the shift lever forward or backward to select gears and the shifter doesn’t move along a track like in most cars. A light shows which gear is selected, but to get from Drive to Park, drivers must push the lever forward three times. The gearshift does not have notches that match up with the gear you want to shift into, and it moves back to a centered position after the driver picks a gear.

The vehicles sound a chime and issue a dashboard warning if the driver’s door is opened while they are not in Park. But investigators found that the push-button start-stop feature doesn’t shut off the engine if the vehicles aren’t in Park, increasing the risk of the vehicles rolling away after drivers have exited.

“This function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or drivers who do not recognize that the engine continues to run after an attempted shut-off,” investigators wrote.

Thus far, the investigation has found 314 complaints, 121 crashes and 30 injuries from the problem. Three drivers reported fractured pelvic bones, while four others needed to be hospitalized with a ruptured bladder, fractured kneecap, or severe leg trauma.

Fiat Chrysler says it is cooperating in the probe. The company changed the shifters in the 2016 Grand Cherokee and 2015 Charger and 300 sedans so they function more like people are used to. But FCA said it did so to increase customer satisfaction and not for safety concerns.

One driver, in Atkinson, New Hampshire, complained that in November of last year, her 2014 Grand Cherokee began traveling in reverse with no driver inside. The SUV crossed a street, crashed into a mailbox and rolled up a driveway. The driver wrote that she tried to get back into the Jeep but was knocked to the ground and it rolled over her legs and injured her. The Jeep eventually stopped after hitting a fence. Drivers are not identified in the NHTSA complaint database.

“The shift knob is a real problem,” wrote another driver from Enumclaw, Washington, who reported two unintentional roll-away incidents in a 2015 Grand Cherokee. “I am not a complainer, however this is a major safety issue. It terrifies me to drive this vehicle.”

Fiat Chrysler is not alone with the tricky shifters. Fisher says BMW and Mercedes-Benz have similar gearshifts. He said the government has a thin line to walk between stifling innovation and keeping people safe.

“I think the best thing for consumers isn’t that legislation comes,” he said. “The best thing is that automakers really do not start adding features that are really confusing to people and cause accidents.”

Offbeat Humor and Upbeat Messages Dominate Super Bowl 50 Ads

NEW YORK – From a strange creature called “Puppymonkeybaby” to a tear-inducing Audi ad, Super Bowl ads ran the gamut this year from offbeat humor to heartfelt messages.

On advertising’s biggest night, Chrysler celebrated Jeep with an ad featuring black-and-white portraits of veterans, kids and pop icons. In Audi’s spot, a depressed aging astronaut remembers his joy for life by driving an Audi sports car with his son. And in a quirky Doritos ad, a fetus in a sonogram appears to rocket out of the womb to chase a bag of chips the mother angrily tossed away.

The goal for advertisers: to stand out and win over the 114 million-plus people watching the big game on Super Bowl Sunday, much the way the Denver Broncos triumphed over the Carolina Panthers. With ads costing a record $5 million for 30 seconds this year, the stakes are high to stand out from the 40-plus advertisers and be remembered.

In general, advertisers played it safe with universally liked celebrities such as Anthony Hopkins (TurboTax) and Ryan Reynolds (Hyundai), cute animals and pro-America themes.

“It’s been a pretty safe night,” said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer at advertising agency MRY. “There’s relatively little going over the top.”

Offbeat humor reigned with a creature called “Puppymonkeybaby” – pretty much exactly what it sounds like – in an ad for Mountain Dew’s Kickstart. The ad sought to show that three great things go together, since Kickstart combines Mountain Dew, juice and caffeine.

“It’s on my list of the weirdest ad of the night, but it’s very catchy and people will be talking about it,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Heartfelt messages were in abundance too. SunTrust’s ad urged people to take a breath and feel better about their financial health. BMW’s Mini urged people to “defy labels.”

Most ads managed to avoid the somber tone struck last year, when an ad for Nationwide about preventable household accidents bummed out many in the audience.

There were a couple of misfires. Two pharmaceutical ads highlighted unappealing digestive conditions. One promoted an anti-diarrhea medication Xifaxan with a small-intestines mascot taking a seat at the Super Bowl. Another sought to raise awareness about “opioid-induced constipation.”

“This just isn’t a topic that people want to hear about during a Super Bowl,” said Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor.


Mountain Dew’s ad might have been the weirdest ad of the night, but Doritos’ ad also seemed likely to divide viewers. The spot showed a couple during a sonogram. When the mother throws away a bag of Doritos, the fetus seems to zoom after it, to the consternation of all present.

“It caught you a little off guard, but it fit the brand,” said O’Keefe.

Some Super Bowl watchers agreed. Brian Kearney, from Morris County, New Jersey, was watching the game with about 15 people and said the ad was a hit with his friends.

“I thought it was hysterical, we all cracked up,” Kearney said.

Other ads with offbeat humor: Bud Light featured Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen traveling around America promoting “The Bud Light Party.” A Shock Top ad showed actor T.J. Miller trading insults with the brewery’s talking orange wedge mascot. And the outdoor goods-and-clothing company Marmot showed a man palling around with an actual marmot he appears to be falling for, all to illustrate falling in love with the outdoors.


Eight years after the financial meltdown, financial companies are feeling more comfortable promoting their products and services. Six advertised in the big game, including including SunTrust Banks, PayPal, Quicken Loans, Intuit brand and Intuit’s TurboTax and Social Finance Inc.

Most promoted optimistic messages about money. TurboTax, for instance, enlisted Anthony Hopkins to get out the message that you can file your taxes for free with TurboTax. PayPal’s music-video style ad asked people to embrace “New Money.”

“We’re officially over the mourning of 2008 (financial crisis),” said Mediapost columnist Barbara Lippert.


Some advertisers created mini-movies. Toyota went long with a 90-second ad depicting bank robbers who use a Prius 4 to escape from police. LG enlisted Liam Neeson in a futuristic spot showing off LG’s new OLED 4K TV. Hyundai’s “The Chase” ad, echoed “The Revenant,” showing people escaping grizzly bears by using Hyundai’s remote start feature.

“Super Bowl advertisers are sticking with light themes,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. “Last year we had serious ads about fathers and mortality. This year the ads are funny and creative.”