By on March 16, 2011


The first time I saw Scott Burgess’s review of the Chrysler 200, I very nearly posted a screengrab of the headline to TTAC as a conversation-starter. Why? Because when a Detroit automaker re-launches a worked-over vehicle in a crucial segment and then hypes it with a Detroit-boosting Super Bowl ad, the local paper just doesn’t go and slam the car in question. In fact, it’s rare to ever see a negative review of a Detroit-made vehicle in either the Detroit News or its sister paper the Detroit Free Press. Ultimately I decided against pointing out the DetN’s slam, as one headline does not a story make… unless, of course, it does. Jalopnik.com reports that Burgess has resigned from the Detroit News, and that a number of his bon mots have been excised from the online version of his 200 review. Lines like “regrettably, the 200 is a dog,” as well as his conclusion that

It’s vastly improved, but that’s only because it was so horrendous before. Hopefully, this car is a placeholder until the real redesigned 200 arrives – eventually.

The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough.

The Detroit News hasn’t yet commented on the story, but Jalopnik’s investigation creates a pretty damning case against the paper [Ed: for all we knock 'em, we have to acknowledge El Jalop's fine work here]. The DetN may have lost a huge amount of credibility by forcing out Burgess for daring to tell the truth, but this story will only help draw more awareness to the ugly reality that still defines too much of the automotive media. Painful incidents like this one will ultimately leave the automotive media more healthy for having forced writers to stand up for the truth.

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54 Comments on “DetNews Auto Critic Resigns Over Chrysler 200 Review Edits...”


  • avatar

    This is really disturbing. In general the Detroit dailies do a pretty good job on covering the auto industry, warts and all, but this harm’s the News’ credibility.
     

    • 0 avatar

      Disturbing.

      #1 chrysler screwed up by not having the 2011 300c in that Ad.
      #2 The 200 is a good car but it’s ridiculous. The roofline is still Sebring and therefore it should still be called “Sebring”. The 200  concept should have been built to replace this car – or, perhaps, they could have kept the Sebring name indefinitely.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      They couldn’t use the 300 because “Imported From Brampton, Ontario” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    the tone of that review does not fit many established publications
    i can’t help but think a more considered writing style wouldn’t have resulted in job loss while still taking Chrysler to task

  • avatar
    Force

    “the tone of that review does not fit many established publications
    i can’t help but think a more considered writing style wouldn’t have resulted in job loss while still taking Chrysler to task”

    You’ve got it backwards – the tone doesn’t fit because other publications may have chosen to sugarcoat.

    The 200 is an example of the kind of mediocrity that crippled Chrysler in the first place. With the mid-size segment as competitive as it is today, a resurgent Chrysler can’t afford this type of lowest common denominator engineering.

    If that’s how Scott felt and he wished to report it, good on him.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with Force on this one. “Tone” is too often used as an excuse when the real problem is the person’s opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      “The 200 is an example of the kind of mediocrity that crippled Chrysler in the first place. With the mid-size segment as competitive as it is today, a resurgent Chrysler can’t afford this type of lowest common denominator engineering.”
      Quite true; it looked okay when I saw it at the auto show, but when I sat in it the thing felt like I was sitting at a picnic table.  Hard with no support anywhere.  Can we just become like Africa and have our factories tooled to produce the last generation of European cars?  Can you imagine how well a new 2000 vintage Audi would sell?  Or a Nissan Clio 182?

  • avatar
    MBella

    I must say, that took some balls writing that in the News. It just shows who actually runs the news.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      What it really shows is that you can’t polish a turd.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      I saw an F-150 drive by in Syracuse NY with what looked like chrome plated 22″ wheels, 30 series tires, and spinners. They were highly polished.
      So, there you go, polished turds.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      What’s impressive is that it’s published.  It’s one thing to write such a review, it’s another to let it slip the editorial process.  That’s either gutsy, or really, really naive.
       
      I’d be interested to know if the person(s) who signed off on the story were also let go, or if sacking the writer is simply the result of where the sh_t eventually rolled downhill to.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Maybe it’s because of  the excised juicy bits, but Burgess’ review blows.  He criticizes the four-cylinder engine, but doesn’t tell us anything about it other than it gets 173 HP, which is comparable to other 2.4 liter mills, and mediocre mileage, which can be at least partly attributed to 4-speed tranny.  For comparison’s sake:
    200:     173 HP, 20/31 MPG
    Camry:   169 HP, 22/32 MPG
    Yeah, the 200′s not even close.  Oh wait, yes it is!
     
    He rips on its looks, but that’s purely subjective, I think it’s a decent looking car.

     
    He rips on the U-Connect but doesn’t compare it to anything else on the market.  It seems like every review I read for any car criticizes the infotainment system, with the exception of Ford’s Sync, and even that isn’t popular with all reviewers.
     
    “This car lacks inspiration and soul” can be said about nearly all of 200′s competition.  Really, a Camry has soul?
     
    I do agree that pushing the luxury theme is over the top on Chrysler’s part, but on paper the 200 seems to do pretty well against the competition.  Other than a new 6-speed tranny that needs some tuning, Burgess doesn’t point out anything specific that it’s lacking.   If you’re gonna rip on the home team, you better have some solid reasons to back up your lack of enthusiasm.  Burgess doesn’t, or he’s keeping them to himself.

    EDIT–Not to suck up, but credit where it’s due: It’s possible that I’ve been spoiled by a steady diet of quality reviews here at TTAC.
     

    • 0 avatar

      I do not think DFP is a place to read car reviews and most of reviews are of low quality. I occasionally read some and every time regret wasted time. Which includes Burgess. I do not think DFP lost any credibility by firing him. They can fire Phelan also to clean up pages. His reviews are ridiculous. BTW Phelan wrote similarly devastating piece about Buick Regal. I do not know about 200 but I test drove Regal and it is a nice, high quality car with typical German solid feel even though has wrong engine, and I never was a fan of Opel, but this one they nailed. Regal was a European COTY after all ( it is not the same as MT COTY).

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Russcycle you have just won the coveted TTAC post of the week.
      That was a fantastic synopsis of everything I should have been thinking after reading his review. I don’t think either side has much to brag about. He wants to be Jeremy Clarkson. They are a business that needs to better respect the domain of their writers.
      What would I have done? Let the fellow publish his writing AS/IS. But let another established writer who genuinely favors the vehicle offer a different opinion. This is nothing that two honest journalists can’t solve.
      Now if only they can help me understand why anyone would want me to envision whirled peas.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Playing devil’s advocate for a bit, the 200 needs to be more than just competitive with the segment leaders to be successful.
       
      This is a segment where Toyota and Honda have held the lead in sales for many years, to the point where the portmanteau Camcord is understood by those outside of the cult of automobile obsession.  If Toyota or Honda were to put out a car that was just on par with the rest of the segment, or even slightly below it (which arguably is the case with the current Camry in the objective sense)  the legions of fans each vehicle has will still keep it at or near the top of the sales charts.  For a midsize sedan customer to take a risk on a Chrysler product the Chrysler entry in the segment has to offer something above and beyond what is available from the players who have established themselves as purveyors of quality vehicles.
       
      The statement that the 200 proves ‘good enough is never going to be good enough’ tells it all.  Chrysler put together a ballsy and very successful ad campaign for the entire brand with this car as a focal point.  The fact that one of the most common responses to the add the day after the superbowl was ‘cool ad, but why did they pick that car to showcase?’ should be telling.   I don’t think anyone will argue that the 200 isn’t a major improvement from the Sebring, nor that it isn’t a capable vehicle when looked at in a vacuum.  This is just a situation where, due to Chrysler’s history in this segment, being competitive in the marketplace will require having a vehicle that is far more than just competitive on paper to the established players.

      EDIT:

      My opinion of the 200 being just ‘on par’ is purely based on reviews I’ve read, I haven’t had the chance to drive one yet. I may be pleasantly surprised, but as of yet I haven’t seen any rave reviews claiming that it’s a game changer, which, at least IMO, is what Chrysler really needs to earn any credibility in a segment where they have been trailing the pack for years.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      to be fair, the camry is put out to be some kind of ‘saviour’ with a white rapper and ‘imported from detroit’
       
      camry is what it is
      if you hype the hell out of a car expect people to shut you down if it doesn’t deliver

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      That was a crap write up. This is how it should be done, unfortunately edited for content:
      http://www.leftlanenews.com/chrysler-200-first-drive-review.html

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      If Toyota or Honda were to put out a car that was just on par with the rest of the segment, or even slightly below it (which arguably is the case with the current Camry in the objective sense)  the legions of fans each vehicle has will still keep it at or near the top of the sales charts.
       
      They have got to the point that they can sell a Sebring-like car and get away with it, with almost total impunity. They must keep the refrigerator-like reliability of course.
       
      However, the fact that Fusion, Malibu and Sonata are starting to take the heat to their feet (the things one learns in this site :D ) is enough proof that they won’t be able to play the game indefinitely.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If you’re going to fire an auto reviewed for turning in an
      a) Anodyne
      b) Cliché-filled
      c) Superficial (in the “I didn’t actually drive the car” sense of the word)
      d) Rehashed press release-ish
      e) All of the above
      …review, then you’re pretty much turfing the whole industry save for, perhaps, Consumer Reports.
       
      Much as I’d like to see more reviewers canned for writing tripe, there’s not really precedent, so that’s probably not what happened, here.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      There’s another issue with Burgess review, he states that the 4 pot comes with a 4 speed and the 6 speed is an option. That is true, but what he doesn’t tell you is that the 4 cylinder 4 speed is a spec car for the rental fleets. I haven’t been to my local Chrysler dealer, but I bet it would take a lot of looking to find a 200 with the 4 cylinder 4 speed combination. I bet the vast majority are 6 speeds. And this not some hard to find fact that only a devoted reader of Allpar would know (but if Mr. Burgess is a true professional he should regularly visit sites like Allpar), but was in Chrysler’s press release for the car’s introduction.
       
      Mr. Karesh, I await your review of this car since I know that you will:

      Actually drive it
      Read the specifications and compare them to other cars in it’s class
      Test it on real world streets, not just a test track.
      Actually sit in the back seat instead of just looking at it and writing “it’s big and comfy” or “it’s tight and cramped”

    • 0 avatar
      GB1

      I was at a Jeep-Chrysler dealership getting my Jeep’s oil changed and checked out the 200… looks DAMN nice if you ask me, both inside and out. I did not test drive the 200, but a coworker has the 4-cylinder Camry and complains that is has no power and is too lifeless and is bland. I drove it one day and it’s just an appliance.
      But hard to believe that they fired this fellow over his bad review of an American car!  Jez!  Com’on guys!  He didn’t commit libel.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Michael, thanks for the award, I’m all verklempt!  Does that come with a free lifetime subscription to TTAC AND True Delta?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Nope, and I’m not Mike.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Sorry Steven, my bad.  Guess my brain, such as it is, automatically associates “reviews” with “Karesh”.

  • avatar
    jimble

    The bilious snark that got excised from the review added absolutely nothing of substance. Any editor worth his salt would have cut those sophomoric remarks before the original article was published. Sounds like Burgess was pissed off at the world and wanted to lose his job. Maybe he thought the publicity would land him a better job somewhere else.
    And by the way, Ed, was he fired or did he quit? Jalopnik says he resigned. Burgess said he resigned. You say in one paragraph that he quit and in another that he was fired. Is that just sloppy writing or are you insinuating something for which you have no proof?

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I feel compelled to note that Mr. Burgess was ahead of me in the V-6 Chrysler 200 while I was driving the revised Chrysler Town & Country down the California coast. Although he managed to squeal the tires quite a bit, his pace was not good… so much so that I pulled over to take a break. In a MINIVAN.
     
    Perhaps he’d have liked it better if he’d been able to get more out of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Interesting.  I  suppose if I thought I could drive (I don’t) and a Baruth-piloted minivan was kicking my tail, I’d be tempted to blame my ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Here’s a question.  Is the Chrysler 200 (& Dodge Avenger) the lightest weight vehicles with the Phoenix V6?  I’m always interested in vehicles with a good power to weight ratio.  That alone might make it worth the test drive.  283 hp with a aprox 3300lb curb weight is nothing to sneeze at. 

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      LULZ.
       
      I don’t think you need to be a racedriver to appreciate, review or evaluate a car. It sure helps.
       
      That said, I don’t understand why some magazine writers pretend to have supercar-like handling in a refrigerator with wheels. The point of such soulful appliance  is to take its customers from A to B with maximum reliability and minimal problems, the same of what you would expect from any white good. As with a toaster, it also should look from decent to good.
       
      And although I really like soft touch dashes and door panels, hard plastics are here to stay. Some look good, some doesn’t (even from holy-do-everything-good japanese brands), but still have yet to be cut by plastic flash left after molding. Again, don’t see why magazine writers pretend to compare a Festiva vinyl upholstery with the leather of a Rolls Royce and still have the cojones to call it cheap. Of course it’s cheap, that was the whole point of the car.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

       
      I thought a V6 200 was closer to 3900 lbs than 3300.  Maybe not though.  If so, that is pretty impressive hp to weight numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      cmus

      curb weight of the 2011 Avenger is listed at 3394lbs.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      From MT: 200 Limited 3.6
      Curb WT: 3589
      0-60: 6.4
      ¼ mi: 14.9@94.9

    • 0 avatar

      Suddenly the truth came out.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      More Jack Baruth minivan street racing fan fiction.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      OK, so I was 200lbs off on the weight but seriously those are good numbers.  That quarter mile would have made a Mustang proud not that long ago. 

  • avatar
    ctoan

    When I was a little kid, I always thought that editor’s notes were written by some guy named Ed.  And so now it comes true.
    And I think that’s hilarious for some reason.

  • avatar

    Good for Burgess, for standing up for his principles.  I hope he lands on his feet soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Burgess probably could have been a bit more tactful… but in end, it’s hard to spin this any other way than he was forced out for writing the truth. I can see how the Detroit News would have a problem with that.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The way to get better at anything – from boxing, writing articles, painting your house, woodworking, racing horses, to making cars – is to be grateful to anyone who is willing to be critical, and to try take any criticism to heart (if it makes any sense at all). It would be in Detroit’s best interest to leave this guy exactly where he is.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    He thought chrysler put lipstick on a pig. Unfortunately he made that point a bit too well. the next time I travel for business I’ll rent a 200, after all that’s where a huge number of them will end up.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I just had a 2010 Sebring (18K on it) as a rental when my Challenger was having it’s nose replaced after someone hit and runned me in a grocery store parking lot (I was in the store, and some old lady saw it get hit, or she thinks so anyway). To be honest, from all the venom spewed at the car over the last few years, I expected a lot worse than I got. I’ve been in a lot worse cars, believe me. No rattles, ran OK for a 4 cyl car, went straight, and stopped ok. Not all that much different than the 2009 Camry a friend had while his Tundra was in the shop for the 10th time since he bought it a year ago. I didn’t like the control stalk on the left at all, and the stereo really blew, they could have had the Sirius activated, at least. But all in all, not the disaster I was expecting. Would I buy one? Nope, but I wouldn’t buy any FWD anything anyway, regardless of who made it, and how much the critics fawned over it. To me, it was just another boring FWD 4cyl car in nice looking candy apple paint that I really liked. I kind of want to drive a 200 just to see what’s different.

  • avatar

    disagree with him at times but respect his independence and will defend such. you go Burgess. call ‘em as you see ‘em bro…

  • avatar

    See also: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/11/30/

    Edit: I also wanted to note that if automobile press had any credibility before, we would not have a blog that ostensibly delivers the truth about cars as its defining feature, and not, say somewhat amusing and entertaning news about cars. This sort of sugar-coating always went on.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    I just played “Build Your Car” on the 200, along with it’s major rivals. If you compare strictly on price**, the Chrysler will save you multiple thousands of dollars vs. the competition. You can put the V6 in the Touring (mid-level) model. Try finding a brand new 283 hp sedan with a sunroof, Bluetooth and a 30GB hard drive for $23,890. No, it isn’t a game changer but if you can get past its looks and Chrysler’s historical “baggage” that is a great deal.
    **Please no lectures on the Detroit building to a price. As a former Corsica owner, I know all too well.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    I have to admit disappointment with TTAC for seemingly not reporting on what I think are two big headlines recently:

    1.  the decision not to report the original Detroit News critique of the 200.
    2.  a discussion of how Volt sales are really, really low.

    I have to admit that I used to like this site for the hard hitting, almost insider news on the auto industry.  A lot of that seems to be missing lately.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      They’re selling the Volt as fast as they can make them; dealers are sold out everywhere I’ve looked.
      If sales are low, it’s because Chevy’s production can’t keep up (and if it’s true that they’re selling at a loss, I can’t blame them for dragging their feet).

  • avatar
    Advo

    Wow. I don`t recall a mainstream media article so harsh as that original copy.
     
    It may not be as good as the competition, but how can anyone really think Chrysler would be able to produce an exciting, great-styled sedan with a re-work of a former design on a limited time and budget?
     
    I wonder if his main beef with the car not being up to the standards of a luxury brand portrayed by Chrysler advertising should have been written as such in a separate article. Something more along the lines of an editorial instead of a car review might have carried the point across as effectively and saved his job.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Everything ever written is merely someone’s opinion. Perhaps the writer was having a bad day or something really ticked him off, or his 2002 Intrepid 2.7L just sludged up and blew up on him and Chrysler contended it was his fault – I don’t know, but expressing vitriol for a product appears over the top and unprofessional. Just the facts, ma’am and keep it from being personal. I haven’t driven a 200 either, and the Saturn Ion roofline turns me off style-wise, but at our recent auto show, my wife and I were very impressed what Chrysler was able to do in a short time in making the interiors more inviting, so that has to at least be a start! I’m still ticked off at Chrysler for dropping Plymouth and not reviving the “Fury” name just as I’m mad at Ford with the “Galaxie” name and mad at GM for a few other things, but I don’t hate anyone’s cars for personal reasons. Where has all the “class” gone? All too often the internet is a sewer, but I hope TTAC thinks about this and raises the bar a bit more in this regard. Just my opinion, for whatever that may be worth.

  • avatar
    GMis4GoodManners

    It should be noted that the review has since been pulled from DT’s website.

    Also, DT has been removed from my Favorites list – really no sense bothering to read their reviews, I already read Detroit press releases.

  • avatar

    I still do not get why people keep reading car reviews in newspapers. It does not matter is it New York Times or Detroit Free Press or local Middleton Forum. Unprofessional journalists get their news and ideas from internet and already have popular preconception pro or against car from internet or just try to be politically correct like “Toyota” is good and “Chrysler” is crap. 200 is based on smaller Caliber platform in contrast with Mitsu Galant which is on its own larger platform. I hope they approach engineering more seriously and invest more money in development of next 200.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Piss poor journalism, no real comparison to the competition, and apparently wanted to make a name for himself IMO.  Glad he got the boot.  The Sebring/200 isn’t NEARLY as bad as people make it out to be.  Yes, I’ve driven one (Sebring).  It was equally as bad as the Camry rental I had.  Both smelled like cheap plastic and the 4 cylinders sounded like industrial blenders under load.

  • avatar
    Neanderthal

    Russycle pretty well nails it. The Sebring-hating drones whose magnetic vitriol the 200 attracts like flies, from what I suspect is a readership–not a drivership–of ~98.6% who have not driven the car or even planted butt in it, speaks of people who don’t get out enough and are perhaps too intimate with their keyboards.
    Our (yes, we now have one in the garage, does anyone else here?) 200 Touring V6 compares quite favorably to the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. I drove all models of the H/K cousins, from Optima LX/automatic to the Sonata turbo with full battle rattle.
    While the Sonata and Optima are fine cars that go, stop, and handle well, so is the 200. But the 200, or should I say Eminem’s car?, rides far more smoothly while giving nothing away in the cornering, lean, and braking departments. It’s a bit heavier so not quite as snappy in the response department, but the driver/passenger point of view are a little higher up and therefore to my wife and me superior. 
    The seats are grippy enough if not quite the coddling–and hip-squeezing–buckety-buckets that the bolstered H/K chairs are. Controls are simple and obvious. LEDs are the SOP for all but the vanity mirror and trunk lights.
    MOST IMPORTANT, the car is a very comfortable ride. At road test, the first thing I did was fling it around some corners, and the lean control is quite good, just as in the H/K cars. But it doesn’t give you a constant readout on the passing pebbles and expansion joints, as even the Optima LX with 205.65.16″ Korean rubber does.
    Stock shoes on the mid-level Touring are Michelin MXV4 225.55.17 on attractive aluminum wheels, and they likely contribute a bit to the comfortable ride. The Limited has 50 series 18-inchers sporting the not-so-sporty Goodyear LS-2, which ride a tad harder.
    The V6 flies, I don’t know how it will do on the strip vs. the turbo Optima or 3.6 Malibu (fine I suspect), but I spend a great deal more time on normal roads than drag strips so I don’t really care.
    There is some sort of trannie or ECM hiccup which the dealer reflashed but did not completely cure.
    A very nice car, at a very good price point, that does everything asked of it while so far delivering in the low 20s for all driving with three fill-ups so far.
    If you must hate the car, have at it. Just for yuks and chuckles, you might consider driving it first, along with a couple of its competitors.

  • avatar

    The 200 is plainly better than the Malibu.
    1. It has the Pentastar V6 (Wards ten best list!)
    2. The 200 has the fastest 0-60mph times in its segment.
    3. Its interior is far superior to both the Malibu and Fusion
    4. Hmmm, it looks better than the Sebring, but the weird roof line returns. What is with the ION-inspired slash down the side of the car?

    Well, nothing is perfect, but I would buy this over the domestic competition. If you look at it from the front only it reminds one of the Genesis. If the Genesis and ION had a child it would be the 200. It is a car that has some excellent details along with some strange styling choices. The 200 excites and repels at the same time.


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