By on March 24, 2009

One of the dirty little secrets of automotive journalism is that media scribes get perfect cars to drive. You might not think that from the lousy reviews some cars get, but if journalists took their chances with true production cars, the reviews would be a lot worse.

Needless to say, automakers want to show off their cars to best advantage. But somewhere along the way, the definition of “best advantage” got more than a little stretched. It’s one thing to make sure the press cars are clean and the tires aired up. But vehicle preparation has become a virtual rebuilding of press cars to make them absolutely perfect in every detail, and, in many cases, better than perfect.

In the Detroit area, there are a number of prototype shops that “build” press cars. These shops normally build complete prototype vehicles for shows and for engineering evaluation. So fixing a few flaws in a production car is nothing special. Special paint jobs, closer panel alignment, and reduced door gaps are standard operating procedure.

One car maker, annoyed by press reports of wind noise, had a shop develop a special fixture to replace the window glass. Then the car could be pressurized, and air leaks easily spotted. A rework of the body flanges, door seals and related parts fixed the leaks. No more reports of wind noise on those models! Of course, the average buyers, without the benefit of this careful massaging, took their chances.

The same company introduced a slightly revised version of their full size van a few years back. The press releases bragged about the dramatically improved build quality, and the media agreed. But none of the reporters had seen the press’ vans at the shop, where not only were they completely repainted, every visible spot weld was filled and sanded, creating a flawless surface everywhere you looked. The cargo version of the van, with no interior trim, had lots of visible spot welds. A lot of man-hours went into that bondo job but the van sure looked nice when it was done.

Another company introduced a new sedan to challenge the BMW 3 series for sporty credentials. That meant that every press car had to handle and steer very well. Unfortunately, the first fifty cars off the line were so poorly made that proper wheel alignment couldn’t be achieved, steering gears were sticky, and the tire supplier sent tires that were out of round and out of spec in other areas. The prototype shop went on red alert. The factory sent over another fifty cars, and truckloads of components.

Subframes were swapped, steering gears were disassembled and blueprinted, and the wheel alignment guys worked around the clock. Eventually the shop was reduced to welding up and redrilling mounting holes to make sure that suspension geometry was correct. This was in addition to the usual repainting, refitting and other preparations. Somehow the shop got all fifty press cars together in time, and the car got great reviews. Unfortunately for the paying customers, it took a few years for the production versions to get as good as the press cars.

Why does this situation continue?

The press needs the cars, and the companies need the press. If the press blew the whistle (assuming they even cared enough to find out about the extent of the pampering their cars get), they wouldn’t get cars to write about, putting them out of business. If the companies don’t provide perfect cars, they get savaged in the press. It’s a classic case of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), just like the days when the US and the USSR faced off with nuclear weapons. Neither group wants to change the rules.

The only way to get the right stuff about cars (other than reading thetruthaboutcars.com) is to listen to writers who get their cars from dealers, like everyone else.

At present, the only magazine that buys its own cars is Consumer Reports. Despite the puritanical editorial stance about fun and cars, they often have surprising insights about quality, performance, and dealer service. CR gets cars with wind noise, flawed paint, water leaks and other problems that somehow escape the notice of the buff books.

One way this could change is for the buff books to buy their own cars. But the economics of the publishing business make this prohibitive. So, since the car makers need the press, perhaps they should set up a trust fund equal to what they spend on press cars and preparation. Buff books can requisition enough money to buy a showroom example, test it, sell it when they’re done and rebate the proceeds back to the trust fund. This would also give the manufacturer invaluable insight into resale values.

Which car maker will be first to step up and make a bold commitment to objective reporting?

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56 Comments on “Editorial: The Truth About Press Cars...”


  • avatar
    jimmy2x

    I believe that the guys at Edmunds buy their cars – at least the ones that go into their long-term fleet. But your point is well-taken – count me among those who really had no idea that this practice was going on. Thanks.

  • avatar
    tom

    To me, it always seemed to be obvious that press cars receive some special attention, but I never would have thought that it’s THAT special.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Edmunds also gets cars way before dealers do – how else would they have tested so many Camaros in the last few weeks?

    From what I can tell, the only cars Edmunds get from dealers are the ones in their “long term” (one year) fleet.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Consumer Reports does indeed buy its own cars. When I sold Fords, we had their buyer come in for a 2008 Taurus X. They don’t tell you who they are, negotiate a price (not very hard, though) and only when it comes to writing up the paperwork do they fess up as to who they are. They buy at a variety of dealers of the same brand to try to keep the anonymity.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Very true all that. Now, one thing must be said too: the vast majority of buyers will never notice the flaws in the base models, or too blinded by love for their new car to acknowledge them. It’s the same syndrome that leads so many to buy “ultimate driving machines” for commuting at 25 mph.

    It’s certainly not an excuse for that situation to last, however.

  • avatar

    More dirty little secrets ( from Europe:) Press discounts. Not only do you get an immaculate car, sometimes with extra spiffs, you also pay up to 30 percent less. And the ultimate: Long term “loaners” for supposedly long term tests ….

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I’ve always taken my hat off to Consumers Reports for actually purchasing their products.

    The other “dirty little secret” in the automotive world is that many auto companies over-content their vehicles in the first model year, knowing that the mags will get one then for testing. Then after a year or two, the “hidden” content is reduced and/or made cheaper, usually with reduced performance. Toyota is big on this, my sources tell me.

    In contrast, the Detroit-3 often seem to be barely able to launch a program with all the good stuff at first, and they seem to get their correct (maximum) content somewhere near the end of year 1 (after all the knee-jerk reactions to the first surveys come in).

    I’d like to see some Year-1 vs. Year 4 tests of the same car. Now that would be interesting.

  • avatar

    I won’t say this doesn’t go on, but I’ve never found any indication that anything has been hand-massaged on any of the press fleet cars that I’ve been getting. Yes, they’ve been detailed to a fare-thee-well, but no more so than a new car prepped for delivery at a really contentious dealership. Trust me, if I thought there was anything hinkey going on, I’d be the first to point it out.

  • avatar

    Hmmm..

    If a car is designed with door-to-body gap of say 9 mm, how does one prep that car to have a smaller gap? Make a bigger door? Not convinced.

    cheers

    Malcolm

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    This sort of tweaking has been going on for years.

    More than one source has written about Ford’s preparations for the press introduction of the Edsel, and the ceremony that was planned for handing over the 50 press cars for evaluation. The idea was for 50 white-coated Ford engineers to simultaneously start 50 identical cars, drive around a track, and then emerge from the cars and simultaneously slam the cars’ doors with one reassuring, solid “thud.”

    The problem arose when the first 50 cars were delivered, as the quality control issues at the time were atrocious – even Lee Iacocca once wrote that a colleague ran a length of clothesline between the inside door pulls of his ’58 Ford demonstrator, to keep the doors from flying open whenever he hit a bump. The Edsels’ quality issues were even worse.

    No problem. Ford assigned a crack team to prep the cars. Then had to send over more cars to cannibalize for parts. When all was said and done, slightly more than 40 cars were available on press day, at a per-unit cost exceeding that of a Continental, which at that time listed for $10,000. The base price of a top-of-the-line Edsel Citation was less than $4,000.

    Were it not for the fact that I know how these perfectly prepped vehicles get abused by the press, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on one as a slightly used car.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Where can I buy one of these hand built, diaper-wiped, lovingly assembled press cars?
    Or should I just get a Toyota?

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    I’ll be damned.

  • avatar
    relton

    malcommcauley

    Cars are DESIGNED with a 4.5 mm door gap. Cars get MANUFACTURED with gaps from 3 to 10 mm.

    Want to reduce that 9mm door gap to 4.5mm? Take a strip of 4.5mm thick wax, stick it on the door. Grind the paint off the fender. Apply industrial grade bondo to fender. Peel off wax. Carefully shape bondo, and repaint entire car. Nothing to it.

    Bob

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    You see, this is why I read TTAC, despite the sometimes quirky writing style. Before I found this site I had no idea that car reviewers drove ringers. I just naively assumed they bought cars like everyone else, and that journalistic ethics compelled them to be fair and objective. Just as before I came here I never noticed that every review of a car in my local newspaper was positive. This is the sort of insight that makes me, for one, willing to pay a subscription fee.

  • avatar

    Sounds just like the GM story Mr. Farago published a few days ago with the execs seeing only perfected, highly-refined vehicles for testing.

    The blind leading the blind! This industry has built more BS into itself than imaginable I suppose.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    i wasn’t aware of this, but i do know that these cars do seem to be taken care of more carefully because of the critical press guys that drive them. This might fully apply to the US car fleets, however do you guys know if it applies to the oversees press fleets, specifically Europe?

    I saw a CTS-V in Dubai with the V emblem barely hanging on some glue. turns out it was a press car and it was preproduction so a lot of details had still to be re-done. i wonder what else would fall off a preproduction car….

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    What do they do with the press cars after they are shown to the press?

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    In the Detroit area, there are a number of prototype shops that “build” press cars.

    Do we know who these shops are, exactly? How ’bout an interview….an expose, if you will? That would be good stuff.

  • avatar

    Robert Schwartz:

    If they’re pre-production, they’re crushed. If they’re not, they work their way through the press, then get sold.

  • avatar
    relton

    Back about 91-92, Ford sold all of their executive lease cars, and the press cars, to employees at a special lot on Rotunda Drive. You couild tell the Mark VII press cars from 40 feet away. The headlight lenses were polished to be perfectly clear. I should have bought one!

    Bob

  • avatar
    jthorner

    It is nice to see Consumer Reports given the props it deserves. Auto enthusiasts have often give CR the New Jersey State Bird without realizing that the magazine does some things right.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I’d like to know about the example vehicles from the story. Spill the beans, who was it?!?

    Seriously though, is this a domestic thing, or do the foreign marques get in on it too? And does this affect all press cars, or just on newly introduced/revamped models? Incredible that they snow their execs and the press, and then roll out the marginal quality production cars for public consumption. You would think they’d realize that it would catch up with them some day.

  • avatar
    olivehead

    sorry, but i’ve never seen a 10 mm gap on any body panel on any car. that’s about half an inch. i think more likely what happens is that the uniformity of the gaps over the whole car are tweeked so that you have, say, a 3.25 mm gap consistently over the whole car. i definitely have seen a car with a 2 mm gap here, 3.5 mm there, etc. even worse is, for example, one headlight or tailight having a certain gap or alignment on one side of the car, while the corresponding light on the opposite side of the car has a slightly different alignment or gap. i never can figure how that happens. i can buy 5 different vacuum cleaners or whatever requiring some assembly out of the box and put them all together and they’re practically identical in fit and finish (i.e., the parts only go together one way), yet a car costing $20,000 and upwards can have these kind of inconsistencies.

  • avatar
    aunt jemima

    What about when companies hold the public comparos – our car versus theirs. Besides tweaking their own car, how much do they detune the competition?

  • avatar
    relton

    olivehead

    First 6 months of 91 Caprice production had a gap at the top of the right front door to front fender of over 10mm. Grand Rapids stamping, who made the fenders, claimed it wasn’t their fault. Willow Run, who made the doors, claimed it wasn’t their fault. The argument lasted about 3 months. Then the die rework took about another 3 months. Customers for the first 6 months got the 10mm gap. At least is was only 4 mm at the bottom of the door.

    I have one of these cars in the garage, complete with 10mm gap.

    Bob

  • avatar
    Spaniard

    European Crash Test NCAP organization buys the cars to be crashed acting as “normal” customers at dealers.

    It is -obviously- the way to go if you want to test something.

  • avatar

    I wish this article named names (makes/models), but then I guess there would be a potential libel situation. I want an in depth TTAC investigation to be done! Of course, then we might not see any car reviews here.

    As for Edmunds, I believe they have a mix of bought and press cars.

  • avatar
    olivehead

    bob:

    point taken. but hey, it is a ’91 caprice after all.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Well, at least they don’t swap engines as they used to…if I remember a Pontiac GTO press car with a 389 actually had a 421 SD disguised as a 389.

  • avatar
    pariah

    Which car maker will be first to step up and make a bold commitment to objective reporting?

    My prediction is that, unfortunately, none of them will, ever.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “If they’re pre-production, they’re crushed. If they’re not, they work their way through the press, then get sold.”

    Why do they crush pre-production cars?

    Who do they sell the production cars to?

  • avatar

    Having worked on the press-car-prep side (I’m now a journalist, http://cars.about.com), I don’t think the special prep is as extensive as you think. Pre-production cars (the ones at the buff book long-leads), maybe, because they’re pre-production — the line is still figuring out how to build ‘em, so they’re generally a mess. But production cars? I’m not so sure.

    I do know that the cars get about a thousand “break-in” miles before they go out on their first loan. But after that, the demand is generally so high (and, today, the budgets so tight) that the cars are turned over quickly, with many going from one journalist to the next on the same day (pick up, gas, wash, drop off). Mechanical repairs are made at the dealership and collision repairs at a good body shop. They get lots of TLC, but it’s the same TLC to which an owner has access. I can’t tell you how many cars I’ve received with scraped up wheels and slight body damage. Then there was the Cobalt SS with the door rattle and the GT-R that clearly had partially lost its mind.

    Even if the cars are immaculate, any journalist worth his or her salt knows that there’s a big difference between driving a press car for a week and owning a car for three or more years. The manufacturers can tweak all they want, but they can’t hide lousy ergonomics or inadequate power. For my part, I always mention that the cars I test were provided by the manufacturers, so readers can make up their own minds. Still, while I’ve no doubt that press cars used to receive an unusual amount of attention, I think those days are largely gone. (I’m also told there was a time that at press previews, journalists never had to sleep alone. How did I miss that??) Here in Los Angeles, one of the Big Three recently dropped its specialty shop in favor of a (cheaper) pick-up-wash-and-drop-off service. And even when the cars came from the old place, they weren’t even close to 100% perfect.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave my fancy hotel room, go eat an agreeable breakfast, and drive a pre-production example of a fancy new car. The days of the press junket may be numbered, and I gotta get mine while I can!

  • avatar

    Frank,

    I’ve had only one press car so far, and it was far from perfect. But then TTAC only gets press cars after many other journalists have had a round with them.

    It should also be said that when the press finds faults in a pre-production car, they often decide not to mention them, assuming that they won’t be present on actual production cars. Or sometimes they do, but add, “but this problem is unlikely to be present on actual production cars.”

    Most importantly: unless these tweaks affect the performance of the car, they have little or even no impact on the reviews. Even CR has backed away from counting the “sample defects” of the cars it buys or using those cars to provide any information on the typical number of defects. Why? Because it’s a sample size of one.

    CR’s policy of buying the cars themselves is more a reflection of the way cars used to be than the way they are now. Back in the day, a single car could have 10+ defects. These days the typical car has perhaps one defect at time of purchase, and often none at all.

    I see this in the survey responses at TrueDelta. The majority of people report zero repairs in the first year of ownership.

  • avatar

    Robert:

    The pre-production cars get crushed because they aren’t up to the quality, safety or trim standards of the final product, and the company doesn’t want to have to deal with the liability or the potential problems. The production cars generally go anonymously to auction, though sometimes they are sold to friends, family or members of the press.

  • avatar
    olivehead

    mr. karesh brings up an interesting point about CR. as a subscriber i read their car reviews every month, but just reading his post do i realize that they stopped including “sample defects” in their reviews. i think this is important info to have in a way, and must disagree about the number of such defects that you can find on production cars today. i looked at literally 2 dozen cars before selecting my current car, and let me tell you that if you consider paint bubbles, chipping, misaligned panels inside and out, etc, to be “sample defects,” then there isn’t a car on a lot out there that doesn’t have at least 2 or 3. i guess that just comes with mass production, but it’s still disappointing.

  • avatar
    geeber

    This is nothing new…Jim Wangers was using Royal Pontiac to prep press Pontiac cars back in the 1960s.

  • avatar
    Arminius

    This also goes to show that car reviews are only one aid in the car buying process and that there is no substitute for doing your own test drive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Where can I buy one of these hand built, diaper-wiped, lovingly assembled press cars?
    Or should I just get a Toyota?

    Interestingly, Toyota is about the only marque I can think of where the press cars aren’t ringers. From what I recall, the number of Toyotas (and the reviews of them) where a dash rattle is noted is pretty high.

    It could be that Toyota doesn’t give a damn what reviewers say and knows it’ll sell regardless. I’ll let others decide what that means

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    I don’t know how tweaked the European press cars are, but in Europe there’s a different kind of corruption, called press junkets. Usually, a bunch of journalists are flown to an exotic loaction, like Madeira or Hawaii, to test some new cars, on the car makers expense. If it’s a big launch, they charter a big jet. Hotels, food, drinks, so on, everything paid for by the maker who makes the cars the journalists are there to test. And test unbiased. It’s highly suspicious, in my opinion…

  • avatar
    MX5bob

    From my experience in press fleet cars, there weren’t any that came off as ringers.

    Of course, pre-production vehicles really can’t be judged on build or material quality because they’re not off the normal assembly line.

    Press fleet vehicles cycle back to the manufacturer and are used for further testing, training purposes, etc. So various employees drive them, not just execs. The press fleet vehicles that are production models could be sold to the public, but aren’t.

    Pre-production vehicles are not federalized and can’t be sold for use on the street. Those also go into the manufacturer’s pool for long term testing, training, and eventually are dismantled and crushed. There are exceptions; the Z3 BMWs used by the Mario Andretti driving school in Vegas are pre-production.

    Not every carmaker uses pre-production vehicles. The exotics don’t. I don’t think BMW or Audi do anymore. Suzuki and the Koreans don’t either. GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda. Probably Honda, but I don’t recall.

    It is proper to state in the review that the vehicle was supplied by the manufacturer, but not all reviewers do so.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    Having worked for a company that did this work, I can say that there are some more-than-minor tweaks on prototypes and pre-production for good reason, but really not much more than detailed dealer-prep work (that unfortunately dealers don’t do very often or well) on production cars.

    The writer (possibly not knowing pre-production from production?) used some VERY extreme examples here, so take it with a grain of salt, please.

    And, all OEM’s do this work, even TTAC’s favorites.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I think I have the worst of both worlds…

    I own a pilot car (built before the production run to flush out any problems before the production line gets ramped up).

    But rather than getting the right kind of “extra attention”, I’m pretty sure in my case GM noted the problems, then shipped it to the dealer without actually fixing them on mine.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Autoweek is testing a “used” Audi R8. Let me know how the car holds up AFTER 20,000 miles.

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    I thought I had Deja Vu when I read today’s article.
    Seems fixing/tweeking isn’t just for the press.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/inside-gm-mystery-of-crap-interiors-solved/

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Sometimes the pre-productions can make a car look really bad in a magazine test. For example C&D had a pre-pro Lexus (600hL I think, might’ve been a 460L), that literally could not stop. Something was very wrong with its brakes, and it needed over 200ft. to stop in C&D’s usual braking test. Someone just glancing at that review and not noticing that it was a pre-pro could decide not to buy the car because of that.

  • avatar
    ivorwilde

    As one who worked for many years with one of Detroit’s 2.8, I can say that the REAL work on preparing press vehicles to a point well above production-quality levels was routinely done on vehicles used for ‘short lead’ press events, usually held at an exotic location at a 4-star hotel. Those vehicles typically came from early production runs (each automaker has their own designation for this, but they had VINS and unlike pre-production or prototype units, could be sold and licensed.) They would be hand-picked from the line after colors, trim levels, etc. were selected by the PR/launch team. (i.e., if it was a smaller vehicle, a light colored interior and sunroof made it look downright spacious!) Vehicles were then inspected and rebuilt if needed from bumper to bumper, (panel alignment, wind noise, weatherstrip adjustments, paint blemishes, full mechnical check), before being driven again the vehicle team, and even by senior management at the COO/CEO level. Only then were they shipped to the media launch site. There was always a dealership or skunkworks somewhere not far from the hotel, where a team of engineers worked nights or between groups of journalists to “maintain” the vehicles, often using things like special lubricants to eliminate BSRs (buzzes, squeaks and rattles). Unfortunately, I can also say that several new models had their basic specifications (drivetrain, suspension, tire pressure) tweaked for optimum performance/comfort/capability, whether it was a sports car, luxury car or off-road SUV. These units would THEN go into the press fleet, but be cycled out shortly by later production models. These too were “prepped” by the same engineering team, which by now knew what the early press reports were. The good thing is that engineers would communicate back to the plant and some issues would be resolved as running changes. But generally, these press vehicles get much more attention than units being shipped to dealers or fleets. And yes, this practice has been going on for decades. So buyer beware, or at least be informed!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I recall one of the car magazines finding paperwork in the back of a C4 Corvette showing a serious massaging and pre-delivery check. All this and a setback of the odometer, too! Too bad they still had issues with the car.

    Regarding all that bodywork, I find that hard to swallow. I, for one, can see bodywork, even really good bodywork, pretty easily. Can’t imagine that it would be easy to fool the journalists all the time. Hit any car with filler with the right light, and you can’t miss it. Judging from some of the defects noted in press cars, I guess some items are either ignored or unnoticed by the manufacturer. The slant here was toward GM/Ford, but any data on which other makes do this?

    Lastly, I will give the toaster testers at CR kudos for buying their vehicles outright. Gotta give credit where it is due. I actually miss the defect number they used to have and the previous attempt to give some sort of absolute reliability value.

  • avatar

    Ingvar:

    The American press junket is alive and well. I’m on one now, as a matter of fact. I can’t defend the nice hotels and the good meals (though I can see why you’d want someone well fed and well rested before evaluating your car), though the scenic places are important (so we can get good photos) as are good roads (and trust me, I notice when we’re taken to places with mostly straight roads and glass-smooth pavement).

    Are we influenced by the trips? I know for a fact that some journalists are. I like to think that I’m not. A junket obligates me to write a review (that’s their return on investment), but not necessarily a good review. Most automakers are OK with a bad review if it’s fair. But that isn’t always the case, as I just found out.

  • avatar
    Dangerous Dave

    This tweeking for the press is not the exclusive turf of the auto manufacturers. I worked for a personal watercraft manufacturer that did the same thing to their press boats. Particularly to watercraft headed to one of the major magazines that had a week long, head to head, test session of all the PWC manufactures’ boats. Boats were picked for fit and finish, engines and jet pumps were blue printed, props ground, hulls trued, ect. I’m sure the other manufacturers were doing the same thing.

  • avatar
    john m flores

    Interesting story, but it’s hard to consider it “truth” without sources, names of press shops, on the record quotes, statements by the alleged perpetrators of these deeds, etc…

  • avatar

    Michael Karesh :
    I’ve had only one press car so far, and it was far from perfect. But then TTAC only gets press cars after many other journalists have had a round with them.

    I’ve had press cars with as few as 500 miles on them. And some with nearly 20K on them. But I’ve never had one that I thought was specially prepped nor have I had one that seemed particularly abused.

    MX5bob :
    Not every carmaker uses pre-production vehicles. The exotics don’t. I don’t think BMW or Audi do anymore. Suzuki and the Koreans don’t either. GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda. Probably Honda, but I don’t recall.

    The Subaru Impreza GT I reviewed was a pre-production vehicle and it was identified as such when I received it. I saw nothing with it to indicate it was any different from one off the production line.

  • avatar
    niky

    I guess I have the luxury of driving press cars in a small market. Our test units are usually straight off the boat with the regular production cars and lead a pretty brutal life. It’s not uncommon for an ex-press car here to be sold with a hefty discount, badly warped brakes and a noisy transmission.

    Actually, I recall some magazines mentioning problems with press cars in the US, too… not all manufacturers seem to go to extreme lengths to “massage” their cars.

    It could be that Toyota doesn’t give a damn what reviewers say and knows it’ll sell regardless. I’ll let others decide what that means

    I just love doing Toyota reviews. We get cars with unfinished door panels, dents, rattles, etcetera. Not that press cars from the others are always perfect, but Toyota still keeps sending us cars, despite some negative reviews. Truly open-minded people, those guys. And never have we had a one with a mechanical problem, despite the huge amount of abuse they’ve obviously received.

    Still hate the Corolla. But Toyota’s a great company.

  • avatar
    doctorv8


    I recall one of the car magazines finding paperwork in the back of a C4 Corvette showing a serious massaging and pre-delivery check. All this and a setback of the odometer, too! Too bad they still had issues with the car.

    Yeah, that was Car and Driver, back in 1985. One of their great long term tests from that era. Man, do I miss the old C&D!

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Ironically, Car and Driver and Consumers Union often agree on the basic aspects of the cars they test, even though Car and Driver usually drives pre-production or press cars, and CU buys theirs.

    As for pilot cars, I got nailed with one from Mazda, a first year 323 delivered with numerous assembly flaws such as missing engine mount bolts, trim fasteners, mis-routed wiring, and other first-production glitches. Mazda did little to help.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    IvorWilde clearly worked for the same company I did, although I worked for the Australian subsidiary. We prepped cars in the exact same manner.

    Firstly we gave the 2000km at the proving ground.

    Then using the full facility of the proving ground we would then go to enourmous lengths to identify and eliminate any squeak, rattle, blemish mis-match or mechanical problem etc we could find.

    Typically this might involve removing seats, interior trim even engines and fuel tanks if need-be. Some of the fixes were quite shocking such as stuffing cavities with foam, blocking air leaks with silastic – my favorite was a fix that involved wacking an internal weld flange in the roof flat with a cold chisel to stop a creek.

    But here’s a good one for you to check on press cars – door seals that look wet and shiny will usually indicate silicon wipes have been used to eliminate door creaks and improve door closing efforts.

  • avatar
    sjd

    I used to write as a journalist and one of the pre-production cars I drove was the Audi R8. The interior had some wear and tear (the driver’s seat was wearing already) and the carbon fibre pieces in the engine bay were wearing/rubbing against each other.

    I now work for a Japanese manufacturer and I know that our press cars aren’t massaged at all. We do have a PDI done and an alignment done (within spec) and then put about 1000km on them to expose any potential problems. That’s it.


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  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India