By on June 15, 2012

Tesla’s 10 minute driving time limit at their Model S press events are leading some to cry foul – “how can a journalist reasonably evaluate the new EV without getting an idea of its battery range?”.

The bigger question is “what value do press trips really provide to the reader?”

We all know the standard format; the writer gets a flight to somewhere warm, where the roads are smooth and winding. If they are important, or the OEM wants to make them feel important, they might be flown in Business Class. There’s a nice hotel room, lavish meals, unlimited alcohol and the chummy camaraderie that exists between humans with a mutually beneficial relationship.

The drive itself is held on perfect roads, and is meant to highlight the attributes of the car while minimizing its flaws. There might be a (heavily coned-off) track event or autocross, but the goal remains the same. A local road-test, in an uncontrolled environment conducted under real life circumstances, is a much better qualitative measure of the car. Quantitative data can only be gleaned via specialized, expensive equipment.

So why bother attending?

TTAC takes a particular view towards the press trip; we treat it as a compromised situation that still has the potential for an original story that can bring value to our readers.Getting face time with the decision-makers of the industry isn’t always possible, and the press trip is a great time to do that as well.

Others treat it like an opportunity to collect some Flyer Miles, get drunk and ask condescending questions to the engineers and product planners about why they decided to integrate the sway bar into the rear axle, ruining the ability to install a thicker one, on a $12,999 economy hatchback.

Unless you’re Bertel. Then you get driven.

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25 Comments on “On Press Trips And The Associated BS...”

  • avatar

    Agreed, the only test drives I’ve ever been interested in were the ones where the reporter actually went to a dealership, or rented the vehicle for him/her self. Junkets are like a reporter doing a story on Idi Amin or Hitler while a guest at their house.

    • 0 avatar

      Something something Godwin’s law…

    • 0 avatar

      I typically rent/borrow a vehicle before I write (or make a Youtube) review on it.

    • 0 avatar

      As someone who does write/film about cars for a living, I have to disagree with some of your logic. If you think a ten-minute drive in a Tesla Model S is bad, how much driving can you expect to get done at a car borrowed from a dealer? I’ve never been on a dealership test drive longer than 20 minutes or 10-15 miles at the most, and you’re not going to get much out of that, especially if you’re driving a sport-oriented car and the dealership is in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. Renting a car works, but only if you’re interested in reviewing a base-spec model of a kind of car that’s typically found in rental fleets. Some people care how the navigation/multimedia interfaces work in these cars, which is why press cars come more-or-less loaded, and renting one won’t give you that experience. Plus, it costs money to rent cars, and if you’re writing for yourself, and not for a bigger outlet that will repay that expense, you’re literally paying to work.

      Now, given the choice, I’d much rather take a standard week-long press loan from a manufacturer than attend a media launch event (even if it does mean I get to race Derek and my other journo friends in Karts and Autocross), that way I can do whatever I like with the car for a week in order to get a better perspective on it in a variety of conditions. But, as a freelance writer, if I’m invited to a media launch and an editor wants to pay me for that story, why should I turn down the trip? That’s how I make a living, and if I don’t go on the trip, it will probably be months before that car is available again and by then, the story is no longer a story.

      Your metaphor, ahem, simile, regarding Idi Amin or Hitler is extreme, but somewhat valid. But for some of us (especially younger journalists like myself, Derek, and others), who are actually in this business because we like evaluating cars, not just buffet lines, the media launch is one of those give-and-takes that, if you write an actual review of the car and give it a fair shake, is a necessary evil.

      Speaking from personal experience, I can think of three examples of cars for which I’ve attended a media launch and then written negative reviews on the car: the 1st-generation Genesis Coupe, Ford Taurus SHO, and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. In my opinion, it’s more about the person who attends the launch than the launch itself, and whether that person is comfortable (or cares enough) to be honest about the car, regardless of how tasty the shrimp cocktail is.

      **Note: While I have attended 15-20 media launches in my relatively short career, 5-10 have involved flights and I’ve never been flown business class, in fact I usually get a shitty middle seat. If I get flights/meals/hotels from a manufacturer while attending a launch, I do note it in my reviews.

      • 0 avatar

        You work in this industry and you have never been on a test-drive at a dealership longer that 20 minutes? That seems odd. I’ve been on much longer drives and buddy had a used car dealer give him a car for a weekend that he didn’t even end up buying. I had a dealer “urge” me to take a Top Banana flavored Daytona up to a buck-thirty.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Matt, nice to hear from you!

        Let me just use the opportunity, go a bit off topic and state that you, under the Smoking Tire brand name, may have made the best review of the BMW M3 ever some time ago ;) And one of the best video reviews overall.

        The background soundtracks blend with the camera work at the beginning… the narration (what is said, how the words are selected and how which sentences are emphasized), the tongue in cheek jokes, the camera work during the actual review, the cut in with the Smoking Tire intro, even the ad of these shades… absolute perfection. And there is not even a hint of overstatement in this opinion.

        This was Top Gear level of car reviewing (when they are at their best), or even better as it was not only addicting to watch but very informative at the same time.

        I watched it many many time just to admire how all these fine details of a video review come together, and to listen the soundtracks. In the same fashion I watched Top Gear videos many times, for the same purpose.

        Heck, I couldn’t even help myself watching it again now after I searched for it on Youtube to paste the link :)

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you very much for the kind words about the M3 video. I have always liked that one myself.

        And no, I have never been on a dealership test drive that was longer than 20 minutes. However, the only car I’ve bought at a dealership since I’ve gotten into “the industry” is my Ford Raptor, and I did take out a press loan on the 5.4 model to run in the 2009 Bullrun Rally, which is when I fell in love with the truck. I waited until the 6.2L model came out, and pre-ordered it having not actually driven one with that engine. I still think I made the right decision.

      • 0 avatar


        I appreciate seeing the detailed “so and so did this this and this, and there was BBQ!” at the bottom of a test.

    • 0 avatar

      Show me a journalist who would turn that down, and I’ll show you a bad and timid journalist.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    It’s understandable, this way there is no range anxiety nor chance of overheating and fires.

  • avatar

    Dont’ worry about running out of battery power. The car’s likely to burst into flames long before the battery is depleted!

  • avatar

    It seems it would take at least 50 miles to truly test out its smug-o-meter.

  • avatar

    By the way, nothing stops you from adding a swaybar to a trailing arm suspension with built-in swaybar (for example- some older VW’s).

  • avatar

    Running an EV flat is the point of a long-term test, not a press trip.

    Press trips are to provide a taste while the cook watches you eat; long-term tests provide the whole meal while the cook is away.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    Some day maybe I will have that sort of trip. The ones I attend I will drive to if they are close enough, otherwise it’s always Southwest, a medium-cost dinner, then the next day you are set free on whatever roads you desire. Seems that most of my trips end up in Seattle or Oregon, when it is raining. While I am sure that there are many press trips that are like that, they don’t seem to be ones I have experienced.

  • avatar

    So much hate from jalopnik for the electric car that actually tries to progress the transportation somewhere.

    So much love for 18 mpg turds.

  • avatar

    If you want to take the car out on your own after the scripted drive, this is usually possible. Even on the scripted drive, you can deviate from the route. I’ve done either or both with every launch event I’ve attended.

    Besides the scripted route, another problem with the standard drive is that you usually have someone else in the car with you. I get a much more thorough sense of a car when I have it on my own.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for sharing this aspect. I was always under the impression you weren’t allowed past the “scripted” part. I kind’ve got the impression, to be honest, that if the writer *tried* that they would get the boot. ;)

      • 0 avatar

        Not at all, at least not on any of the trips I’ve been on. I’ve deviated from the routes with OEM execs in the car.

        The route for the regional Veloster drive went near my house, so I knew the roads in my area pretty well. One was a curvy dirt road I like to use to evaluate ride quality and chassis dynamics at reasonable speeds. Unknown to me, it had developed some serious potholes since I last drove on it. Twice the car hit so hard that the wipers turned on (downward g-force on the lever) and the overhead sunglass holder popped open (but not so hard that the tires or rims were damaged). The Hyundai exec didn’t complain.

        I will say that few journalists put additional miles on the car, but this is not because the manufacturers discourage it. I’m usually the last person to turn a car in at these events.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    This is the automotive version of speed dating. Long enough to spot the true train wrecks but short enough to leave you longing for another longer date to distinguished between the mildly interesting and the truly fascinating.

    TTAC unlike many other automotive media outlets is real good about informing the reader about what kind of a event it was, a speed date or the beginning of a LTR. So by all means attend the scripted events just let us know what they were and follow up with a full review later on.

  • avatar

    People typically buy cars that they like and don’t really read reviews. They go by word of mouth.

    Consider the new Subaru BRZ. People preordered it before reviews of it even were published. Most of those people may have had the car less than a day before they review it on yahoo autos.

    Considering most automakers deliver a good car nowadays and specs pretty much tell most of the story you have to choose whether or not you want a nonprofessional review from an actual owner, a professional review from someone who doesn’t own the car and drove it less than a week, or a video review that will end up being an advertisement (professional or not).

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    Todays electric cars are not progressive. They are regressive. Baker Electrics performed the basic funtions just as well as todays government subsidized money pits.

    • 0 avatar

      Progressive politics have always been about statism and the elimination of the economic freedom and trappings of the middle class, so in that sense electric cars are very progressive.

  • avatar


    Is that actually a picture of you in the image above, holding the car door open?


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