By on August 15, 2008

Did Edmunds say thank you for their Evo? (courtesy edmunds.com)There is an argument to be made for car mags and websites accepting manufacturer-supplied long term test vehicles. But I'm not going to make it. If these consumer champions want insight into what it's like to live with a particular car on a day-to-day basis, they can either buy it their damn selves (like Consumer Reports) or ask one of the people who bought one. To my mind, freebie long-term test cars are evidence of collusion: a manufacturer's unspoken quid pro quo, just for being a friend of ours. There's no question that a week's access to a press car is one of the major perks of working as an automotive journalist– albeit a pleasure more-or-less denied TTAC scribes. (BTW: I'd like to see a writer convince an I.R.S. auditor that driving their family around in a long term test car is not a taxable perk.) But it's high time for Road and Track, Car and Driver, AutoWeek, Edmunds Inside Line and the rest to Just Say No to free long term test cars (a.k.a. "our fleet"). Their readers deserve a higher standard of journalism. As for those who claim our policies are self-serving sour grapes, I assure you that as long as I'm the publisher, TTAC will not be bought by any manufacturer, at any price.  

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38 Comments on “Daily Podcast: No Long Termers Need Apply...”


  • avatar
    N85523

    While I agree with your position on this issue (I find long-term tests boring and full of oil change and mpg numbers and little else), I am curious to know whether any manufacturer has been attempting to buy TTAC in such a way.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I am just curious: When will we get that GM death watch we were promised yesterday morning?

  • avatar

    We have been approached.

    GM DW coming. Taking a short break, gathering my thoughts, medicating, grooming, etc.

    Sorry for the delay.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    If these consumer champions want insight into what it’s like to live with a particular car on a day-to-day basis, ask one of the people who bought one.

    It sounds easy to ask the owner of a Prius or an Aztek what’s it like to own such a car, but it’s going to be difficult to get an honest answer from them. In their minds, what they’re driving is the greatest, bestest, goddamndest car ever…at which point their opinion of such a vehicle would carry as much weight as the payola you accuse the buff books of engaging in.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Being in publishing myself, they deserve a free ride as it’s tough for magazine publishers these days. ;)

    No really, I do read long term updates in Motor Trend as I like to hear other writer’s opinions as a follow-up to the original review (especially for vehicles that I am interested in).

  • avatar
    gamper

    Could not disagree more.

    A vehicle’s owner may be the most biased person you could possibly find to deliver driving and ownership experience.

    Without a show of hands, I would speculate that there are very few people who would be willing to tell a friend or neighbor that their vehicle purchase was a bonehead play, a total waste of money and that the owner is completely devoid of savvy consumerism required to make a smart vehicle purchase.

    No, a car purchase is one of those decisions that people are inclined to defend regardless of the facts. Defending such a large purchase is defending your intelligence and a matter of pride. For example, how many people do you know who have had a less than reliable vehicle but still manage to love it.

    Most of us love our vehicles, because they are ours. Our companion, our home away from home, our shelter from the storm, our independence on wheels.

    I will take a magazine long term test thank you, and for the love of God, go take a test drive rather than taking someone else’s word for it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I think there’s a distinction between long-term press cars and long-term test cars (which Consumer Reports certainly does and Edmunds usually will).

    The former are manufacturer-provided perks; the latter, bought the same way a consumer would buy a car, are a valid and useful tool in an evaluator’s toolbox. A lot of the niggles (both useful and problematic) don’t come out in a week-long test drive, or may only be evident when subject to full load/car seat/different weather conditions/wear and tear. That kind of information is good to know.

    I certainly find Edmunds’ long-term, blog-style tests to be helpful (excepting the purchase experience) as there’s all sorts of interesting tidbits that don’t show up in their normal (and, recently, pretty vapid) road tests. By contrast, Car And Drivers’ for example, aren’t very useful at all; there’s little in them than doesn’t come out in their normal road test.

    Consumer Reports’ cars are all fleet, bought by CU and reviewed accordingly. I don’t know how long their test periods are, but I do think those reviews are objectively more useful than the press-car-based reviews from other sources.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian (and others):

    Of course I make a distinction between free test cars and ones that the pubs buy themselves. In fact, it was so clear in my mind that I forgot to make it on screen. Doh!

    Text amended accordingly.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    I prefer to read long term auto tests over the short term ones. I find it useful to see what they think after living with a car for a longer period of time. Thus, they are a service to the readers and not superfluous. I doubt that this could be done by any other method then by accepting a loaner car, especially in the current climate with ad revenues plummeting. I think Payola is probably too strong term for this (of course as always here I think it was meant to elicit a reaction) since you must prove quid pro quo to make that case. In other words: biased reviews. How to prove that is the case would require a bit of investigation and until I see some hard facts I’m willing to cut most car pubs some slack.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    I assure you that as long as I’m the publisher, TTAC will not be bought by any manufacturer, at any price.

    How about for one meeeeelion dollars?? And a tank full of frickin’ sharks with frickin’ lasers attached to their frickin’ heads…

    Seriously, I agree. I think reviews of cars given for free for long term testing should be, at least, looked upon with suspicion.

  • avatar
    AutoFan

    I don’t think the so-called “buff” magazines hide the fact that their long-term test vehicles are provided by the manufacturers. When the talk of vehcile prices for those cars, they only list the MSRP, they don’t include what they “paid” or any included incentives at the time of delivery.
    It is implied that the magazines do pay for maintenance, repairs not covered by warranty and any damage suffered during the year. I seem to remember that Car and Driver took heat a few years ago for the maintenance prices they quoted in articles. They only listed prices for the services required at the mileage intervals which are not the prices the average dealer customer would be charged as dealers tack on “inspections” and replace/refill things that don’t need to be done at every service. They still quote the bare-bones service price, but have explained in the past that they ask to service only those items that call for service as published in the owner’s manuals.
    The only problem with a year-long test (either from one of the “buffs” or Consumer Reports) is that almost every car on the U.S. market can go 1 year with few or no problems. But, going longer than that is too expensive for the publisher and the manufacturer.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I like the long-term tests that Edmunds does. They go and buy a car as a normal person would do and sell it at the end of the year. You get to read the views of many different people who didn’t actually pay for the car which is a good thing. When you buy a car good or bad you feel some compulsion to justify spending the money on it. Not so with a long term test of a car you don’t own.

    Some constructive criticisms; ban me if you wish.

    Every other week or so you really get a “Holier than thou” feeling from TTAC which just isn’t necessary. You can have your mission or policy and even state a “What makes TTAC different” somewhere on the site but the routine articles about TTAC being better than other’s in the industry get tiresome. Same can be said for the constant use of TTAC”S “Best and Brightest” gives the impression of elitism.

    Like Fox News’s “Fair and Balanced” tagline. The more you tell people you are one thing the less they believe you are.

  • avatar

    Steve_S :

    First of all, fire away. We don’t ban people for criticizing TTAC. We ban them for flaming. Big difference.

    Also, I only remove comments about our editorial stance or style underneath unrelated posts (and always email the poster to invite a private discussion). They invariably hijack the thread.

    In this case, as they say in jurisprudence, I opened the door. You have the right to walk in (although not if it’s a crowded movie house that’s on fire).

    So…

    I understand your counsel to walk softly and carry a big stick. But that’s not what we do (in case you didn’t notice). And yes, I still believe that we must constantly reinforce our unique selling point. And yes, I am an elitist, in an equal opportunity never talk down to anyone kind of way. No apologies there.

    And while Fox’s Fair and Balanced tag line might annoy people who disagree with it (myself more or less among them), it works for those who appreciate their stance. Equally, important, it reminds those who work inside Fox how they should do their jobs.

    I called this website The Truth About Cars for a reason. Whether it’s calling for the disavowal of manufacturer-supplied long term test cars or our willingness to discuss and accept our editorial mistakes, we WILL remain consistent. And open-minded.

  • avatar

    I guess I don’t see why a free week-long press vehicle loan is any worse than a free year-long press vehicle loan. Aside from being 52 times longer, is there any fundamental difference in the arrangement? And since TTAC does accept press vehicles for week-long tests, it seems somewhat hypocritcal to question the integrity/motives of other sites just because they also take longer loans.

    More than half of the C/D article linked above about the CX-9 consisted of complaints about missing features, squeaks and rattles, poor fuel economy, and awkward design decisions. I’d hardly infer C/D to be in Mazda’s pocket just because they were able to test the vehicle for free.

    Frankly, I think going to a dealership and feigning interest in a new vehicle to score a test drive, to write a review about the car (unless you are genuinely interested in buying that vehicle or a similar one) not only wastes the salesperson’s time, but also is not giving a vehicle a fair shake. Living with a car for a week (or a year, for that matter) definitely gives a reviewer a better chance to experience the vehicle in all kinds of conditions, to experience long-term seat comfort, city parking, audio/HVAC adjustments, etc. that are just impossible to adequately cover in a 15-mile test drive. (BTW: In the interest of full disclosure, I have done this once before, although my motivation in testing a 2008 Infiniti QX56 was mainly to get a $100 AMEX gift card offered in a mailer rather than material for a review AND it was before my publication had access to press fleet vehicles).

    TTAC discloses when the manufacturer provided a car, tank of gas, and insurance, but does not otherwise disclose how most of the vehicles reviwered here came to pass. Should it?

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    There, Robert. That’s the very reason I believe in this website and only this website for automobile information–NO BIAS. Oh, and the fact that Consumer Reports charges a fee to be a member of their club has a great deal to do with it.

  • avatar
    Steve-O

    Well, I have some fond memories from the 80′s when the Car and Driver ’30,000 Mile Test’ was just that.

    Anyone remember the 1986 Buick Riviera 30,000mi test? (Spoiler: It was a disaster. And supposedly GM tried to bribe C&D to write a favorable review…)

    **sigh** Times have changed…

  • avatar

    ChrisHaak :

    I guess I don’t see why a free week-long press vehicle loan is any worse than a free year-long press vehicle loan.

    Yes, it’s a question of degree.

    More than half of the C/D article linked above about the CX-9 consisted of complaints about missing features, squeaks and rattles, poor fuel economy, and awkward design decisions. I’d hardly infer C/D to be in Mazda’s pocket just because they were able to test the vehicle for free.

    The inference is there, if you’re willing to see it. Note: it’s not enough to be independent, you must be SEEN to be independent.

    Frankly, I think going to a dealership and feigning interest in a new vehicle to score a test drive, to write a review about the car (unless you are genuinely interested in buying that vehicle or a similar one) not only wastes the salesperson’s time, but also is not giving a vehicle a fair shake.

    And speaking of inferences… A) I’m no fan of moral relativism. But if you want to play that game, the salesman has a unique opportunity to sell a vehicle to a vastly larger audience through a reviewer and B) Define “a fair shake”

    Obviously, it’s better to drive a car in a range of conditions away from a salesman’s prying eyes and incessant chattering. A LOT better. BUT it’s important to realize that press cars are pre-selected, pre-prepared, checked and pampered. They do not represent an average buyer’s likely car as well as dealer demo.

    To split the difference, we’ve initiated an arrangement with CarMax to review “real” rides for unsupervised test drives.

    TTAC discloses when the manufacturer provided a car, tank of gas, and insurance, but does not otherwise disclose how most of the vehicles reviwered here came to pass. Should it?

    We’ve got nothing to hide (shall we talk about press junkets?). Our reviews are based on press cars (acknowledged at the bottom of the review), Carmax loaners (ditto), borrowed rides (ditto) or dealer demos (assumed). Is the latter really a problem?

    In cases where we feel a press car was not representative, or the dealer demo ride was too short, we do a take two.

    In all cases, we believe in full disclosure and complete dedication to our readers’ interests above all.

  • avatar

    Robert Farago:

    And speaking of inferences… A) I’m no fan of moral relativism. But if you want to play that game, the salesman has a unique opportunity to sell a vehicle to a vastly larger audience through a reviewer and B) Define “a fair shake”

    Sure, you could argue that the salesman might see a bump in sales thanks to a larger audience being exposed to the vehicle, but there’s little concrete advantage to him to letting a non-potential buyer drive the car. If it was to his advantage, then tell him why you’re taking a test drive (for a review to be read by thousands around the world) instead of an intent to buy the car from him. I’d imagine that in most cases he would not so willingly give up the car.

    By ‘fair shake,’ I just mean that driving a car for 15 miles does not give you a valid picture of how good or bad the car is, especially compared to a 300 mile stint with it. Instead, it’s not possible for a reviewer to glean little more than a first impression.

    Obviously, it’s better to drive a car in a range of conditions away from a salesman’s prying eyes and incessant chattering. A LOT better. BUT it’s important to realize that press cars are pre-selected, pre-prepared, checked and pampered. They do not represent an average buyer’s likely car as well as dealer demo.

    To split the difference, we’ve initiated an arrangement with CarMax to review “real” rides for unsupervised test drives.

    The CarMax deal sounds like a pretty good plan. I hadn’t noticed that tag on any reviews until the 350Z review.

    I’d also assume that a dealer is not going to have you test driving a POS with trim falling off of it. The last new car test drive I took at a dealer for a 2008 CTS, the car I drove was the owner’s demo – a fully loaded white AWD DI model with everything – and it was immaculate. I’ve also driven a new car from the back of the lot with plastic still on the seats that hasn’t been prepped or detailed yet…it all depends.

    I’ve driven press vehicles with 10,000 miles (probably near the end of their press life) with big scratches on the bumpers and gouges scraped off of the alloy wheels. They’re always clean and have a full tank of gas, and sometimes almost brand new, but it’s hard for me to sense anything “special” about my particular examples. Maybe the ones that go to Motor Trend, and maybe I just don’t see it.

    We’ve got nothing to hide (shall we talk about press junkets?). Our reviews are based on press cars (acknowledged at the bottom of the review), Carmax loaners (ditto), borrowed rides (ditto) or dealer demos (assumed). Is the latter really a problem?

    In cases where we feel a press car was not representative, or the dealer demo ride was too short, we do a take two.

    In all cases, we believe in full disclosure and complete dedication to our readers’ interests above all.

    I have yet to attend a press junket (not that I’d decline one if I was available), but I believe that they probably have their place. Should they be held in luxury resorts with five-star accomodations? Heck no. They should held at a proving ground or at a predetermined road course and lodging probably should not be provided, or at best, basic lodging.

    Dealer demos aren’t a moral or ethical problem from your readers’ standpoint; the only problem I have with them is that they are generally not enough seat time to adequately evaluate a vehicle. But if part of your mission is to encourage transparency among vehicle reviewers, I don’t see why you would disclose three sources of test vehicles but not a fourth. Depending on a reader’s perspective, a test that only consisted of a salesman-supervised test drive might be one that they give less credence to.

    By the way, I am in no way questioning your integrity or that of your site!

  • avatar

    +1 on Chris Haak’s comments!

    Since we’re suggesting things:

    I’d like to see at the bottom of EVERY review how the car was obtained. Something as simple as “This review of Car Model XYZ was written after impressions gathered during a 20-30-40 minutes test drive at a _____ (dealer name/city/state) Brand Name car dealer)”.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    He’s not wrong you know!
    Here’s a little article that sums it all up:
    http://www.baileycar.com/ssangyong_rodius.html

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    I made the same points when Edmunds IL introduced “their” new BMW X5, provided loaded to the gills by BMW.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Take a look at the traditional mags circ figures and you can see what those fine, “integrity based” car reviews have wrought. I don’t think there’s an enthusiast left on the planet — their ostensible demographic — that holds them to *any* credibility at all.

    Sad really. Except with CR and now TTAC’s upfront exposure, no “long term” test has any validity in the real world because any mag/blog has become beholden to those who have the gold, fool’s gold that it is.

  • avatar

    Dimwit:

    With all due respect to TTAC and its staff, this site does not have a monopoly on ethical automotive journalism. RF has set the tone from the top to worry much about the appearance of impropriety, but that does not mean that an organization that does not disclose the source of its test vehicles is unethical or invalid.

    For example, as hard as TTAC strives to be bias-free and transparent in all of its dealings (and it does do a better job of this than most), it’s impossible to remove any whiff of possible impropriety, if for no other reason than the site is supported by advertising revenue.

    Obviously, I’m not accusing TTAC of being beholden to its advertisers, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a first time reader could come across the site via Google search, looking for a specific car’s review, and happening to see an ad for that same car somewhere on the site.

    The only way around that – which, by the way, I would not do if I was TTAC – is to charge readers a subscription fee and not accept advertising, ala Consumer Reports.

    And guess what? In spite of CR’s best efforts to be seen as a neutral party, there are thousands of people (if not more) who accuse CR of a bias in favor of Honda and Toyota. Many domestic vehicle fans (in fact, most of whom are probably CR bashers as well) accuse TTAC of having an anti-domestic agenda in its editoral slant and in its reviews. If I recall, at least the review piece of that accusation has been disproven by averaging the number of stars assigned to domestic versus import brands.

    So my point is, although TTAC works so hard to be seen as unbeholden to anyone and a fair, objective voice, many people don’t see it that way. Conversely, just because a publication like Car and Driver gets a “free” long-term test vehicle for a year does not mean that they will give it an unfairly favorable review.

    TTAC is an outstanding website, and I actually spend more time reading every word written by its gifted team of writers than any other site except for wsj.com. There’s nothing wrong with this site at all, but I just disagree with these particular accusations, because they haven’t been proven (to my knowledge) and are really no more than speculation or hearsay.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    “As for those who claim our policies are self-serving sour grapes, I assure you that as long as I’m the publisher, TTAC will not be bought by any manufacturer, at any price. ”

    I’m trying to think of a manufacturer that’d want to loan out TTAC a long-term vehicle, especially with all those “Death Watch” articles. Ford, GM and especially Chrysler must be pretty pissed off with all the negative publicity they’ve (deservedly) been getting. Maybe Tesla ?. ;)

  • avatar
    Power6

    Funny that you chose the picture of the G8 and the caption is a shot at Edmunds. If you check that particular intro, you will see that they purchased the G8 on their own. Looks like they buy about half of their fleet, and the other half are freebies. I imagine they probably exhaust the possibility of a free ride before they break down and buy it themselves. At least they disclose such in a very clear manner at the end of the intro just as they do the source of test cars in their other articles.

    I still maintain that I like both this site and Edmunds and they both have their place. Here we get the gritty reviews and hard hitting articles, and at Edmunds we get pretty good stuff, and well…they actually get to drive the latest cars which is essential to being a decent source of info.

    I am also with the others about the lack of credibility of owners. It only takes a small amount of research into the psychology of decision making to learn about how fear and then backwards rationalizing drive the decision making process in humans. To expect a fair viewpoint of anyone after they have already made the purchase is being unfair really.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    As long as the fact that the manufacturer supplies the vehicle is disclosed, I don’t have a problem with the mags using free long term loaners to write reports on. Back when I actually paid money for car magazines I found the long term tests the most interesting and they always made it clear that the mfg. supplied the car gratis. But then again, I really don’t give a hoot about 0-60, 1/4 mile or skidpad numbers. I also don’t really care very much about tester’s brief impressions of a vehicle tested over a very short period of time. First reactions often differ from lasting impressions.

    Payola implies something sneaky which isn’t disclosed. I don’t think mfg. supplied long term test cars meet that standard. Finally, car magazines do not posture themselves as being consumer champions (CR does) … they are magazines about cars and motor sports written for gear heads, mostly funded by advertising and run as a for-profit business. I think everyone knows that. The NBC television network isn’t run as a public service and everyone knows it. PBS is run primarily as a public service. Now if NBC were pretending to be PBS that would be a problem, and if NBC is taking money or other consideration under the table in return for promoting certain companies or performers then that would be payola. But, is the star of a current movie doing a stint on Letterman Payola? We all know he/she is on the show to hype the movie and nobody seems incensed about it.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    ChrisHaak:
    So my point is, although TTAC works so hard to be seen as unbeholden to anyone and a fair, objective voice, many people don’t see it that way. Conversely, just because a publication like Car and Driver gets a “free” long-term test vehicle for a year does not mean that they will give it an unfairly favorable review.

    Since Car and Driver almost never gives an unfavorable review, how would you know???

    TTAC has strong opinions. Most people don’t like strong opinions. They should go somewhere else…

  • avatar

    ihatetrees:
    Almost nobody gives an unfavorable review. The last 20 cars that TTAC reviewed contained zero 1-star ratings and two 2-star ratings.

    Of the 2-star reviews referenced above (Amanti and Cobalt), C/D placed an Amanti 6/6 in a $30,000 family sedan comparison test in 2005 (behind such luminaries as the LaCrosse, Five Hundred, Maxima, 300 Touring, and Avalon). I couldn’t find a comparison test with a non-SS Cobalt on their site, but browsing several long-term reviews (RX400h for example), I just don’t see a lack of negativity even there; their bottom line was that it was too expensive, didn’t offer much of a fuel economy benefit over a standard RX, and had an unrefined drivetrain. Sounds glowing, no?

    Would Farago want people who don’t like strong opinions to “go somewhere else?” That’s not a good way to build up the pageviews. Instead, I’d encourage those people to engage in the conversation. By nature, I’m a conflict-averse person, but I’ve visited this particular page on TTAC somewhere around 20 times in the past 18 hours. (You’re welcome, Farago!)

    The next long-term wrapup I saw on C/D was for a 2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited basically said, “buy something else, because the clutch, wheel bearings, headlights, shouldn’t wear out by 30,000 miles.” It also had a lumpy idle and handled poorly in spite of a rough ride.

    The TTAC 4-star 350Z finished 3/4 in a comparison test in 2007 behind a TT and RX-8. The TTAC 5-star C300 (TTAC gave 5 stars to the C180K) finished 4/4 in a comparison test in 2008 behind a CTS, G35, and 328i. The TTAC 2-star Kia Rio finished 8/10 in a comparison test ahead of only the Aveo and Accent. I just don’t see a problem with C/D.

    Basically, anyone who is looking to find negativity will find it, and anyone who is looking to prove positivity will find it. I read a Malibu review elsewhere that I thought was positive overall, and saw comments on it stating that the reviewer didn’t give fair credit to some of the Malibu’s features. Sort of like a self-fulfilling prophesy; if you expect to find a positive bias because of an assumed quid pro quo relationship, you’ll probably see it, but if you assume objectivity, you’ll probably see that instead.

  • avatar

    ChrisHaak :

    With all due respect to TTAC and its staff, this site does not have a monopoly on ethical automotive journalism. RF has set the tone from the top to worry much about the appearance of impropriety, but that does not mean that an organization that does not disclose the source of its test vehicles is unethical or invalid.

    With all due respect, why does the most recent review (Pontiac Solstice GXP) on your site not disclose the source for this vehicle? Is the above a defense of your own non-disclosure policy? Also, Edmunds must agree with us on the importance of disclosing the manufacturers’ contributions to their reviews, as they now do so at the bottom of their review (albeit after we took them to task and not in full detail).

    As far as unethical or invalid journalism is concerned, by thy words they shall be known. I highly recommend you peruse some of my line-by-line analysis of buff book reviews in the Between the Lines section of this website. Or you might want to talk to TTAC contributor and former Car and Driver editor Stephan Wilkinson, who will tell you of direct and pernicious advertising interference in the magazine’s editorial process.

    Obviously, I’m not accusing TTAC of being beholden to its advertisers, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a first time reader could come across the site via Google search, looking for a specific car’s review, and happening to see an ad for that same car somewhere on the site.

    More ellipses eh? Or is this reductio ad absurdum? There is a difference between accepting advertising and allowing advertising to influence editorial. Any reader with a modicum of sense– and that is the vast majority– understands that there should be a firewall between them. They can also sense when these walls are breached– and why.

    Pistonheads know the difference between the integrity of Motor Matters reviews and Car and Driver’s and TTAC’s. As, I’m sure, do you.

    So my point is, although TTAC works so hard to be seen as unbeholden to anyone and a fair, objective voice, many people don’t see it that way. Conversely, just because a publication like Car and Driver gets a “free” long-term test vehicle for a year does not mean that they will give it an unfairly favorable review.

    Who doesn’t see it that way? And if they don’t what ax do they have to grind? And why are you constantly blending perception and fact in your argument? Either a magazine is unduly influenced by its advertisers or it’s not. Surely, as a thoughtful pistonhead and blogger, you’ve read pimpatorials in buff books and despaired. Why would you cut them slack?

    Your use of a double negative and the qualified (“unfairly favorable”) here is also revealing. I think you’re trying to say they’re innocent until proven guilty.

    First, I think I have proven them guilty of tainted journalism (and will continue to do so). And second, if I accept a major “gift” from a manufacturer (like, say, a free car for a year), I think it’s safe to assume that there’s an unspoken quid pro quo. Given the resulting copy, I continue to hold that belief.

    And as for that copy, the general tone of long term reviews of manufacturer-supplied cars is positive. We love it. Here are a few niggles. We love it. And then, sorry to see it go! Please sir, can I have some more?

    but I just disagree with these particular accusations, because they haven’t been proven (to my knowledge) and are really no more than speculation or hearsay.

    Again, read the copy. Talk to Wilkinson (who may disagree with my condemnation of manufacturer-supplied long-term test vehicles).

    Of the 2-star reviews referenced above (Amanti and Cobalt), C/D placed an Amanti 6/6 in a $30,000 family sedan comparison test in 2005 (behind such luminaries as the LaCrosse, Five Hundred, Maxima, 300 Touring, and Avalon).

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Car and Driver’s comparison tests are not evidence of non-bias. Read the copy. No one gets a mauling. And saying “this one’s not as good as that one” is not the same as saying “this car sucks.”

    Would Farago want people who don’t like strong opinions to “go somewhere else?” That’s not a good way to build up the pageviews. Instead, I’d encourage those people to engage in the conversation. By nature, I’m a conflict-averse person, but I’ve visited this particular page on TTAC somewhere around 20 times in the past 18 hours. (You’re welcome, Farago!)

    Thank you Haak. And no, of course not. As long as passionate pistonheads such as yourself observe TTAC’s no-flaming policy and keep this sort of discussion within a related post, they are welcome here. (PS For a conflict-averse person you’re pretty damn feisty.)

    Basically, anyone who is looking to find negativity will find it, and anyone who is looking to prove positivity will find it.

    So truth is relative? I understand that perspective, but, as someone who was educated by Quakers, I don’t share it. It’s not “Our” Truth About Cars. It’s “The” Truth About Cars.

    I will say this much: no one has a monopoly on the truth. I find it a constant struggle to cast aside my personal prejudice and ignorance to get to the truth– even without advertisers’ pressure. And the truth can make it to the surface– even if advertisers are sitting over a writer/editor’s shoulder.

    I am privileged to be able to make this search with you and our other readers. And I never forget that it is your participation that makes mine possible.

  • avatar

    Dinu:

    I’d like to see at the bottom of EVERY review how the car was obtained. Something as simple as “This review of Car Model XYZ was written after impressions gathered during a 20-30-40 minutes test drive at a _____ (dealer name/city/state) Brand Name car dealer)”.

    Again, I’m not feeling the love. You know very well we couldn’t disclose that information, as the dealer wouldn’t give us access to further test drives. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. And while I try my best to keep our ethical standards high, I’m not about to put us out of business.

    Besides, aside from Chris Haak’s assertion that we’re wasting the salesman’s time (which I, as a former car salesman dispute), who’s hurt by our mystery shopping?

  • avatar

    Power6:

    Funny that you chose the picture of the G8 and the caption is a shot at Edmunds. If you check that particular intro, you will see that they purchased the G8 on their own. Looks like they buy about half of their fleet, and the other half are freebies.

    Not so funny. A mistake. Picture changed.

    I am also with the others about the lack of credibility of owners. It only takes a small amount of research into the psychology of decision making to learn about how fear and then backwards rationalizing drive the decision making process in humans. To expect a fair viewpoint of anyone after they have already made the purchase is being unfair really.

    Another fair comment. I meant that owners are a valuable resource in terms of mechanical reliability and dealer service (a whole ‘nother story), which are the main focus of these long-term test reviews.

    And obviously, there’s a place for Edmunds. If there wasn’t, it would be there. AND it wouldn’t be 100X our size. We here at TTAC are only hard on Edmunds et al because we really do love cars– and the causes of cars.

  • avatar

    John Horner:

    Payola implies something sneaky which isn’t disclosed. I don’t think mfg. supplied long term test cars meet that standard. Finally, car magazines do not posture themselves as being consumer champions (CR does) … they are magazines about cars and motor sports written for gear heads, mostly funded by advertising and run as a for-profit business. I think everyone knows that.

    Fair enough. Payola (“a contraction of the words “pay” and”Victrola”) does imply hidden payments. Text amended. (I’ve eaten so many of my words in the last 24 hours that I’m nauseous.)

    But the idea that Car and Driver et al. are exempt from ethical standards because they’re in the entertainment business is nuts. A car is most people’s second largest purchase, after their house. The stakes are high, and these mags sell themselves as consumer guides. They have a responsibility to their audience that goes well beyond giving them something to keep them amused on the toilet.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    I disagree. Even from the point of view of ergonomics and handling, the first test may be skewed by prior experience and conditioning. In other words, your expectations may cause you to subconsciously judge different as bad.

    A few days spent driving a car allows one to let go of preconceived notions and start “melding” with the car. Then your opinions and judgments will be more relevant to a potential owner’s experience.

  • avatar

    RF:

    My point was more about a greater degree of transparency rather than wasting the salesman’s time. I only brought it up since we were discussing full disclosure. Then again, TTAC does pretty well in this regard, so I’m not too concerned. And yes, I fully understand things you must do to stay in business.

    Enjoy the weekend everyone!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I for one was under the impression that Edmunds bought their own cars. Regardless of the source, I enjoy reading different perspectives of a car’s design, drivability, ergonomics, etc.

    I’ve always felt TTAC (and CR for that matter….) have had impeachable credentials for unbiasness. And while CR has worked decades to attain and maintain that reputation, it is quite remarkable that TTAC has attained that rep in such a short time. It is obviously a labor of love for you Robert.

    I’m also keeping a close eye on Karesh, because his site has really jacked up their game, and again, obviously a labor of love. I remember the old days when he would get flamed when he offered/asked people to join his database….

    Anyway, keep up the great work…..

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Robert: “But the idea that Car and Driver et al. are exempt from ethical standards because they’re in the entertainment business is nuts.”

    I didn’t say they were exempt from ethical standards. I was, however, taking exception to the characterization of the magazines as “consumer champions”. A for-profit consumer champion seems oxy-moronic to me, but perhaps I am simply too cynical.

    But hey, I can’t stand any of the formerly popular auto rags and haven’t bought one in years :).

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    John Horner wrote:
    A for-profit consumer champion seems oxy-moronic to me, but perhaps I am simply too cynical.

    1. Why?
    2. People who work for non-profits (like CR) get paid, too. Every employee is “for profit”.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Honestly, I find long term freebies extremely pointless because it takes out important elements of the ownership experience. Once my car gets extensive checks prior to delivery and preferential treatment at the dealership if anything goes wrong, I’ll start buying into them. At least with long-term testers bought by the mag, you have an idea of true cost of ownership.


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