Tony Stark, the fictional superhero in Walt Disney Co.’s “Iron Man” films, will park the Acura supercar he drove last year in favor of a battery-powered Audi when his latest motion picture opens May 3.
A trailer for “Iron Man 3” features the Audi R8 e-tron sports car, not the Acura NSX prototype that the Marvel Comics character, played by Robert Downey Jr., drove in the 2012 hit film “The Avengers.”
With separate deals for Disney’s Marvel films, the carmakers are jockeying to promote their most souped-up models to young film fans. Volkswagen AG’s Audi dominates the “Iron Man” films. Honda Motor Co.’s Acura provided the hot cars in “Captain America,” “Thor” and “The Avengers,” which became the No. 3 top-grossing film worldwide of all time.
“Tony Stark first drove the R8 in the original ‘Iron Man,’ and it remains his vehicle of choice,” said Andrew Lipman, a spokesman for Audi, who declined to say how much the company is spending on its tie-in.
The popularity of Marvel Entertainment’s superhero films makes them an appealing vehicle for carmakers looking to show off their models. Worldwide box-office revenue for “The Avengers” and first two “Iron Man” films exceeded $2.7 billion, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher.
Automakers and dealers spent $3.82 billion on U.S. advertising in the third quarter, according to a December report from Kantar Media. Their outlays rose 21 percent from a year earlier, the company said.
Melissa Zukerman, a spokeswoman for Marvel, declined to provide details of the promotional arrangements. Disney, based in Burbank, California, bought Marvel in 2009 for $4.2 billion. The company agreed in October to acquire “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’s Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion.
Audi, the German luxury line, will be featured throughout “Iron Man 3,” with models including the S7 sport-back sedan, according to Lipman.
Acura, meanwhile, remains the official vehicle of S.H.I.E.L.D., the fictional espionage and law-enforcement agency of the Marvel world, and one of its cars snuck in a brief appearance during the credits of “Iron Man 2,” according to Chuck Schifsky, a spokesman for the luxury brand. He also declined to say how much Tokyo-based Honda has spent to promote Acura models in the films.
“Acura will not be used in ‘Iron Man 3,’ but that should in no way be a reflection of our relationship with Marvel,” said Schifsky. “Our relationship with Marvel at this point is unchanged.”
Acura is based in Torrance, California, the headquarters of Honda’s U.S. sales division. Audi, based in Ingolstadt, Germany, has said it’s preparing to sell the electric R8 that’s powered by a 53 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
“Audi’s a global brand that’s not reluctant to see benefits beyond U.S. borders of getting its products into these movies,” said Jim Sanfilippo, an independent automotive marketing consultant who has worked with Kia Motors Corp., Hyundai Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. “This is a smart, opportunistic move for Audi.”
The base model of the R8 sports car costs $114,200, according to Audi’s website. The company hasn’t said how much it will charge for the battery-powered R8 e-tron.
The Acura NSX featured in “The Avengers” goes on sale in 2015. Honda officials have said only that it will cost more than $100,000.