(Photo by John Schneider) Moore Motors Sales internet sales manager Denny King stands in front of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon that was featured in a Ford Super Bowl advertisement that starred Bill Murray. The Jeep is for sale for about $57,000 at the Caro business, 1725 W. Caro Road.

Folks driving through Caro may notice the orange Jeep displayed in front of Moore Motor Sales, 1725 W. Caro Road, is the same model featured in a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) commercial – starring actor Bill Murray – that aired during the Feb. 2 Super Bowl.

But they likely don’t realize it’s the same vehicle that Murray himself drove in the advertisement. 

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, just weeks ago, was occupied by Murray – along with a real groundhog – in a 60-second ad resurrecting Murray’s role in the popular film “Groundhog Day.”

Moore Motors internet sales manager Denny King said that he was told Murray was approached by FCA last summer about the commercial, but the company’s advertising department didn’t get confirmation that Murray was willing to star in it until recently. 

“So they had to scramble,” he said. “They used two Jeeps in the ad, this one and another they brought down from Wisconsin. The scenes with the groundhog in it where Bill is driving around town, and the bike scene – where Bill puts a little helmet on (the groundhog) and the Jeep is in the background – that’s our Jeep.”

In mid-January, a truck arrived at the dealership to haul the Jeep to Illinois, where the commercial was filmed just days before the Super Bowl.

“It just came out of the blue,” said Moore Motors owner Brad Moore. “We weren’t really expecting it. When the advertising department at (FCA) called us, and said ‘we need this vehicle,’ I said ‘Anything to help them out.’ I think they put 20 miles on it, they took real good care of it.”

King said the Jeep was gone for about three weeks. It was returned to Moore Motors on Friday – five days after the ad debuted during the big game. It arrived with evidence of what had occurred in the front seats.

“We picked quite a few pieces of groundhog fur out of it,” King said. “There’s still a few left on the passenger side, we didn’t clean it yet on purpose. One of our guys joked that we should be taking bids on eBay on the 12 hairs we found.”

When the Jeep arrived back in Caro, the car-carrying trailer driver told Moore the vehicle was indeed the one Americans saw during the advertisement.

“I didn’t put two and two together,” Moore said. “They just told us when they asked to use it, ‘It’s going to be a good story, stay tuned.’ They didn’t want us to know beforehand. It was hush-hush.”

This year the Super Bowl was on Groundhog Day, spurring FCA to parody the 1993 film.

In the commercial, like in the film, Murray, as fictional weatherman Phil Connors, is awakened at 6 a.m. every day to the Sonny and Cher hit song “I’ve Got You Babe” playing on his radio alarm clock. The major plot line of the film is that Connors is forced to live the same day over and over again as a TV weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day activities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In the commercial, Connors sees the Jeep Gladiator and says “That’s different.”

He then proceeds to kidnap Punxsutawney Phil each day, taking him on a new adventure in the Jeep. Steven Tobolowsky reprises his role as Ned Ryerson in the advertisement. 

The commercial, as of Tuesday, had over 50 million views on YouTube and was named by multiple publications as one of this year’s best Super Bowl commercials. USA Today revealed a poll that named the Jeep commercial the top big game ad of 2020.

The sticker price of the Jeep is $57,350 and comes with “almost every option you can get,” King said. 

Folks have been stopping by just to take selfies with the Jeep, Moore said.

“It’s a fun story,” he said. “We all work hard here, so it’s fun when something like this happens.”

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.