Hollywood

Meet Poppy, the groundhog rescue that starred in Jeep's Super Bowl ad

Photo courtesy of FCA USA LLC

Poppy shot to fame starring in this year's Super Bowl commercial for the Jeep Gladiator with "Groundhog Day" actor Bill Murray as her sidekick. The 10-month old groundhog is more than just a celebrity starring in a commercial during the big game.

When a birth defect prevented her from living a full life in the wild, Poppy was rescued after being found end of a residence's driveway. She lives with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Pennsylvania, which is also the home of Punxsutawney Phil and the setting (though not the filming location) for the cult classic movie "Groundhog Day".

Poppy groundhog Jeep Gladiator Groundhog Day commercial 2020 The commercial co-stars veteran actor Bill Murray.Photo courtesy of FCA USA LLC

The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to return animals to the wild. However, as Poppy grew, it was determined by a team of veterinarians that Poppy suffers from a birth defect called Malocclusion. This defect prevents her from receiving sustinence via foraging in the manner of the typical groundhog because she cannot use her sharp incisors to eat or cut wood to build a den.

With that diagnosis, Poppy's care team had to decide between three different options: 1) euthanize her, 2) humanely extract her teeth or 3) submit her to continual painful dental procedures throughout her life, which was not in her best interest from a humane standpoint.

Because Poppy was otherwise strong and capable, the care team decided to humanely extract her teeth and use her as an educational ambassador for wildlife in the state.

The scenes of the commercial involving the groundhog were filmed using a real groundhog, stuffed animal groundhog, and an animatronic groundhog. Some CGI techniques were used in post-production.

Poppy groundhog Jeep Gladiator Groundhog Day commercial 2020 Poppy split starring duties with stuffed and animatronic groundhogs. Photo courtesy of FCA USA LLC

While filming the Jeep commercial, Poppy was under the constant care, supervision, and oversight of her handler/caretaker. Between takes she didn't go to her trailer and talk to her agent. Instead she ate banana chips and nestled on her caretaker's shoulders.

When Poppy isn't starring in commercials, she works as a state- and USDA-licensed educational animal.

Bikini, Hellayella, and Punk'n are all colors buyers can request on the exterior of their new Jeep Wrangler. The bursts of bright and daring paint job choices are different than any other vehicle in the Jeep lineup for good reason. It's because Wrangler owners aren't like any other vehicle owners according to Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design.

To come up with the Wrangler's color palette, the exterior design team works hand in hand with other design studio personnel. It's an organic process that tries not to follow traditional corporate structure - something that works well for Allen and La Shirl Turner, Head of Advance Colors & Materials.

The process takes 12-18 months for the creation of a new paint color while the refresh of an old color shortens that timeline to three to six months.

2017 Jeep Wrangler Chief Edition

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

When developing a new color offering, the team looks at the balance of the paint job variety that Jeep offers after being sparked by inspiration. There are only so many blacks, whites, grays, and silvers - the "vinyl siding collection" Allen affectionately calls it - an automaker needs to have in their lineup.

They also check out what the current trends are, including the Pantone Color of the Year. For 2020, that shade is Classic Blue.

There are limits to what Jeep can do and most of it comes down to logistics. Plants only have the ability to execute so many colors at a time (about 10-12) and customers order colors in a variety of volumes (think less purple more gray). Jeep also likes to have the flexibility to rotate colors rapidly (every three to eight months), which keeps the offerings fresh for Wrangler customers and gives Jeep the ability to flex in and out special edition model colors, something they're keen on doing.

Jeep also takes into account the history of a color. In an interview, Allen said that Jeep receives "a lot of mail" about adding more greens to the Wrangler's color palette. The automaker has a long history with the color thanks to its origins as a military vehicle including Jungle, Forest, and Army Green variants, but traditionally, those colors do not sell well.

Turner says that Jeep also takes a look at colors that were popular in the past and tries to refresh them for modern buyers. Bikini was originally conceived in the 90s and is currently available on the 2020 Wrangler.

Do some of the colors look familiar? Jeep repurposes colors from other parts of the FCA lineup. However, the Jeep team renames the colors for no the reason than, "it's amusing to us" according to Allen. Simple enough.

The cost of the color development and deployment, which may have to be passed on to customers, is also part of the equation. Allen says that Jeep tries to offer, "Nieman Marcus colors at Costco prices." Currently, the pricing of most specialty Jeep paint jobs is under $200 per vehicle.

Other limitations lnclue the availability of the color choices for retractable roof materials (ordered well in advance from a third-party supplier) and whether or not the color works as a full body color.

These factors weren't always part of the equation. "There was a time in our not so distant past that Wrangler got the same colors as trucks," said Allen. New management came in and, with that, a new vision for Wrangler that allowed the design team to open up the color palette options.

Opening up color palette options is something Jeep Gladiator fans should get ready for. With initial Gladiator sales going well, Allen revealed that there are plans to expand the color palette offerings for the pickup truck, in the same vein as what is available on Wrangler.

Allen confirmed that there are currently no plans to offer the Wrangler or Gladiator with an unpainted steel exterior, something Tesla CEO Elon Musk is touting with the Cybertruck.

The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the first model to wear the Desert Rated badge.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Jeeps often come Trail Rated. They wear a Jeep Brand Trail Rated badge that denotes a level of prowess and equipment to conquer terrain that the average SUV or truck does not have. Now, there's also Desert Rated, which debuted at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show on the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave. This new badging takes the mission of tried and tested off-roading even further.

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What is Trail Rated?

Only four-wheel drive (4x4) Jeep models can earn the Trail Rated badge. But, it's only the first step. Models that earn that designation have based tests of traction, water fording, maneuvering, articulations, and ground clearance.

Harsh and unpredictable driving conditions including deep mud, loose gravel, and snow are part of the traction testing.

To assist with the water fording capability of the vehicle, Jeep seals electrical connections and body openings, and rearranges the air intake to a higher position, to protect the vehicle in several feet of water. How much water depends on the model.

The best off-roading vehicles are also agile. Jeep tests each Trail Rated model for the ability to deftly dodge obstacles. The Jeeps' wheelbases and steering are optimized for handling off-road terrain like tight switchbacks and emergency driving situation.

Trail Rated vehicles are capable of impressive articulation thanks to suspension flexibility. Achieving good articulation meal that wheels remain stable and engaged when one or more tires are off the ground.

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk All of Jeep's vehicles are available with a Trail Rated badge.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Having Trail Rated ground clearance means that a vehicle has a good amount of room between the bottom of the vehicle and the harsh terrain it will conquer. This means that the Jeep can traverse rocks, water, and logs without damaging the underside of the vehicle. The rating also means that the SUV or truck has high approach, breakover, and departure angles.

To test all of these models, Jeep takes to the Rubicon Trail. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, the trail is 22 miles of treacherous landscape that will put any vehicle to the ultimate test. The natural off-road adventure park where the trail is located features boulders, water, and well-worn landscape.

Jeep also develops and tests its vehicles at FCA US headquarters in Michigan and beyond, including the harsh winter conditions of Northern Michigan.

What is Desert Rated?

Like Trail Rated vehicles, Jeep's Desert Rated lineup has been developed and tested in harsh conditions. To earn the Desert Rated badge the 4x4s had to pass traction, desert prowess, ride control and stability, maneuverability, and ground clearance tests.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the automaker's first model to wear a Desert Rated badge.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Most of that testing is similar to Trail Rated testing, but takes place in a desert climate. Jeep's Desert Rated vehicles have been engineered to take on the intense heat, coarse sand, loose gravel, and pervasive dust that makes up desert landscape.

The first Desert Rated Jeep is the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave. More vehicles that sport the badging are planned.