We’ll make this short and simple. Derek Kreindler’s forthright review of the new Lincoln MKZ was posted a month and three days ago. Immediately after the review went live, Derek’s next press loaner from Ford was canceled with no reason given. All further requests for Ford press loaners in Canada have been denied. On August 6th, I sent an email to Ford’s head of PR in Canada.
The email read like so:
My name is Jack Baruth and I am the recently-appointed editor-in-chief of The Truth About Cars.
Two weeks ago we posted a review of the Lincoln MKZ that detailed significant quality and execution flaws with our test example.
It is my understanding that since the review was posted, our Canadian editor Derek Kriendler has had his previously scheduled Ford media loaners canceled. Furthermore, he has been advised that he will have no further access to Ford vehicles. I have also heard from sources within Ford media operations in the United States that Derek is on some sort of “blacklist”.
I find it rather difficult to believe that the second-largest North American automaker communicates with the press by mysteriously canceling loaners and “sending messages” through third parties. It’s passive-aggressive to a contemptible extent.
I’d like to confirm with you that no such action has in fact taken place and that there has been a misunderstanding. While I can certainly empathize with the concerns that have been voiced to me about the review, I’d rather handle them in a conversation that through some juvenile idiocy where Derek can’t get anybody at Ford to return a phone call and as a consequence he test-drives random MKZs from dealership inventory and photographs their numerous and sundry quality flaws for, oh, I don’t know, once a week for the next two months.
We stand behind the review as written but given the generally positive press we have provided for Ford products from the Shelby Mustang to the Flex Ecoboost I am surprised at this reaction. If, in fact, it is a reaction and not simply a misunderstanding.
I received no response to that email. I have called Christine twice since then, have been sent to voicemail twice, and have not received a return call. We’ve given Ford nearly a month to respond to our inquiries or to communicate with us in any way, shape, or form. No response has occurred.
It should be noted that during this episode, we received an invite to the Ford Fiesta ST program here in the United States, sent an American writer, (Matt Fink) and reviewed the vehicle. We also participated in the Boss Track Attack program and will be bringing you a review of that program in the near future. (Hint: it’s fantastic.)
As I noted in my email, this sort of passive-aggressive response is beneath a manufacturer of Ford’s stature. Unfortunately, it’s par for the course: when GM blacklisted me five years ago, the way I found out about it was by arriving at the airport to a canceled flight. GM’s PR people simply sent me to voicemail and threw my emails away. I finally got the scoop through a phone conversation with another journalist who was told to “give me the word”. When I was re-blacklisted by GM two years ago, the way I found out about it was through a rumor, apparently spread by GM personnel, that I’d crashed a CTS-V during a press event. The truth was that I shortcut Turn 16 as described here. Although there was grass in the lower grille of the car, there was no damage and the car continued to participate in the event, as did I, with no difficulty or confrontation involved. Not until I got home did I hear that I’d never be coming back. We have a word in Ohio for “men” who behave in that manner, but insofar as TTAC is family-oriented to a certain extent I won’t mention it.
You could argue, and I am certain that some of our argumentative readers will argue, that insofar as Ford of Canada refuses to directly inform me that TTAC has been blacklisted, that we have not been blacklisted but in fact simply are no longer scheduled for press loaners or events. To me, it’s effectively the same thing. I’ve been informed that a major Canadian newspaper is also enduring the “silent treatment” for an uncomplimentary MKZ review. If we can find out more, we’ll tell you.
While I can certainly understand that certain parties at Ford might be upset by our review, insofar as it pointed out numerous flaws in the MKZ that had gone unreported elsewhere, the proper way to address these concerns would be by contacting us and discussing the concerns. Was the MKZ loaner defective for a reason? Was it a pre-production car? Had it been abused or quality-tested to death? We’ll never know, because Ford’s actual response has been to attempt to punish Derek.
Ford of Canada may be under the impression that we will beg to have our access back at any cost, including the cost of sacrificing our integrity. Ford of Canada may be under the impression that TheTruthAboutCars can be intimidated or bullied into giving positive reviews to Ford products regardless of the merits of those products. Ford of Canada may be under the impression that TTAC can be manipulated through passive third-party communications and unspoken threats. They are mistaken on all counts. This site was founded because one man, Robert Farago, would not be silenced. It will continue to provide the truth about cars to the readers. This isn’t Motor Trend. We work for you, not for Ralph Gilles or Geoff Day or Terry Rhadigan or Christine Hollander. We are committed to bringing you the truth. When a Ford product is better than great (step forward, Boss 302) we’ll praise it. When it’s pretty good (hello there, Fusion Ecoboost) we’ll share that with you. When it’s not worth the money, we’ll tell you — and we did.
We’re hoping for a swift resolution of this issue with Ford of Canada. In the meantime, feel free to share your concerns with this attempt to punish the truth at Ford’s Facebook page. And if you see a Lincoln MKZ out in the wild looking like it needs some quality control, feel free to send us the picture. Perhaps a dozen photos of misaligned fuel doors will convince Ford that TTAC isn’t out to get them. Failing that, it might convince them to fix the fuel doors. We’d settle for that.