Category: Editorials

By on September 19, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Before joining the gang at TTAC, I was freelancing, and a lot of my work centered around electric vehicles. Which means I was reading and writing a lot about Tesla, especially during that time a few months ago when the small California-based automaker somehow became the most valuable automaker in the world, at least from Wall Street’s perspective, based solely on its potential.

Some of my work took me into the depths of the pro-Tesla blogosphere. While these sites can serve as valuable sources for news about the company, they also have an unabashed pro-Tesla stance. Objective, they (mostly) ain’t.

And that’s okay – while many, if not most, media outlets default towards being as objective as possible, there’s no rule stating that your blog or outlet has to be objective. It’s okay for HuffPo to be leftist and National Review to lean right. And so it is with outlets that cover Tesla – no one expects Teslarati to be critical of the brand.

It’s one thing to have pro-Tesla blogs, of course, but another to be unable to even talk about the brand without dividing into two tribes – the fanboys who think Tesla is the best company ever and can do no wrong (as it disrupts the industry and solves every one of the world’s problems), and the “haters” who think that Tesla is doomed to fail any day now and it’s a minor miracle the company has lasted this long.

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By on September 12, 2017

irmatireiron

We live in polarized times, when acknowledging the existence of one group of evil people is considered to be a defense of a second group of evil people that the first group of bad actors consider their enemies. Some folks have trouble holding the concept that it is possible to despise both sides of a controversy, without having to identify with this or that tribe. I dislike having to use caveats in my writing but let me say at the outset that I think that people and businesses should not unduly take advantage of situations during natural disasters and other catastrophes.

We’ve seen a lot of inspirational stories out of Texas and Florida in the literal wake of two mammoth storms. We’ve also seen some price gouging and looting. Catastrophes bring out the worst and best in both those that are directly affected, and in those who observe from afar.

A couple of Florida car dealers, in Hollywood and further north in Tallahassee, decided to shelter their inventories from Hurricane Irma in public parking structures made available to residents trying to keep their personal vehicles above flood waters (and somewhat protected from flying debris). The dealers may have protected their vehicles from Irma, but that didn’t protect them from a storm of bad publicity. Every car those dealers parked in those structures meant someone’s daily driver couldn’t be saved from the maelstrom. Read More >

By on September 11, 2017
1963 TVR Grantura Mk III

1963 TVR Grantura Mk III

There is the obscure, and then there is the arcane. When the revival of TVR was announced, with a grand touring car based on Gordon Murray’s iStream manufacturing technology, it is likely that more contemporary car enthusiasts were familiar with Murray than with TVR. Even most car enthusiasts have never heard of the marque. TVR is a specialist British sports-car maker that’s been around since the early 1950s. Over the years they’ve managed to produce a few thousand fiberglass-bodied cars with quirky styling, confusing names, and a passionate following despite repeated bankruptcies and numerous changes of management and ownership. Founder Trevor Wilkinson left the company in the mid 1960s, though the company retained its name, based on the letters of his first name. Read More >

By on September 5, 2017

2003 Chevrolet Tahoe

Those of you who follow TTAC regularly and with some interest (so, 100 percent of you) are no doubt aware of a high-level used car search I’ve been conducting as of late. A rather unexpected purchase occurred this past Saturday while everyong was enjoying their long Labor Day weekend.

Come and have a look.

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By on August 30, 2017

AMC Eagle (public domain)

Roy Lunn passed away recently at the age of 92, not long after being named to the Automotive Hall of Fame. The name may be unfamiliar, but any one of his manifold achievements probably would have merited inclusion in that august institution.

Lunn was in charge of creating the Aston Martin DB2, progenitor to the James Bond cars. Moving to Ford, he had a seminal role in the development of the Anglia 105-E, Ford’s first postwar hit in Europe and the foundation of much of the brand’s later success on the continent. At Dearborn he engineered the first Mustang concept and was then put in charge of Ford Motor Company’s all-out assault on Ferrari at LeMans with the GT40, developments of which won that race four years in a row.

With LeMans conquered, he became chief engineer at American Motors, going from a virtually unlimited budget with Ford Racing to having to turn AMC’s pigs ears into silk purses, and come in at budget, too. At American Motors, Lunn helped make the original XJ Cherokee arguably the most durable American vehicle ever made.

Lunn didn’t know it at the time, but he also invented what we today call the crossover, or CUV — the UV standing for Utility Vehicle, not ultraviolet. In a sentence, a crossover is a vehicle based on a passenger car but with more ground clearance, a long, station wagon-like roofline, a rear hatch, and some kind of drive system that puts motive force at all four wheels. Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

lincolndavis

When considering the way some folks apply modern values to historical personages and events, I often think of two historical truths from the world of fiction. William Faulkner gave us, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” while L.P. Hartley opened his novel The Go-Between with, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

History resonates and rhymes, but things do change.

In America we are currently having a raging debate over whether or not prior remembrances of the past will be effaced because the people remembered were flawed human beings who, in some cases, embraced causes or beliefs many people today consider to be odious. Most recently, Charlottesville, Virginia, has been ground zero for the controversy, with extremists latching on to the issue — resulting in a horrific vehicular homicide.

Peripherally to the events in Chalottesville, the city council of Alexandria, Virginia, has voted to rename the section of the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway that travels through their city.

How that road got named after the president of the Confederate States of America more than a century ago — and nearly 50 years after the end of the Civil War — is an interesting exploration into culture, race, and the history of transportation in America. Read More >

By on August 15, 2017

friedman

It’s the stuff of which public relations nightmares are made.

For the past couple of years Dodge has sponsored Motor Trend‘s “Roadkill” show, which can be thought of as a generic white-label take on Fast N’ Loud. It’s worth noting that Dodge did several promotions with Rawlings before parting ways with him and settling for the Roadkill team; the brand appears to believe that its heartland audience is best reached through flamboyant/quasi-authentic/redneck-chic YouTube personalities. What that says about FCA’s view of its customers is an exercise best left to the reader.

This past weekend, Dodge and Roadkill teamed for “Roadkill Nights on Woodward,” a staged car show and street-drag event in Detroit. There’s been no small amount of interest in this among the company’s owner base and from what I can see the event was a rip-roaring success, chock-full of Vipers and Demons and whatnot. Whenever an automaker spends this much money on any public relations exercise, there is always a tremendous amount of data deep-diving done immediately afterwards to demonstrate ROI of the expenditure via social media visibility, buff-book coverage, and mainstream mentions. Given the big turnout both online and in real life, I’m sure Dodge and its marketing partners were looking forward to the Monday meeting where they could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

As it turns out, this weekend was an absolute barn burner of Dodge-branded media exposure. Unfortunately, the Dodge in question wasn’t a Demon lifting its front wheels on Woodward. Instead, it was a V6-powered 2010 Challenger that was driven into a crowd of anti-white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, causing one fatality and multiple injuries.

The odd coincidence of a “Roadkill”-themed promotion with a Challenger-caused hit-and-run fatality in Charlottesville has pundits on both sides of America’s culture war salivating — and with this unforeseen notoriety comes an unusual, and nearly unprecedented, demand.

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By on August 7, 2017

mercury commuter

I’m old enough to remember when the word “minivan” didn’t exist, when American *moms drove carpools and kids to piano lessons in sedans and station wagons. Styles, tastes, and social conventions change, though. Over the decades we saw how Chrysler’s introduction of the front-wheel drive minivan, CAFE standards that favored light trucks, and women discovering that they liked sitting up high in traffic, have changed the American families’ fleet.

Due, in no small part, to consumers’ zeal to keep their mommymobiles from having the stigma of mommymobiles, we’ve seen the family “car” go from wagon, to minivan, to truck-based SUVs (which, much to those consumers’ dismay actually rode like trucks), to high-waisted passenger-car based crossovers. It’s not just the American fleet, either. CUVs are popular worldwide.

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By on July 11, 2017

car salesman in car dealership with key, Image: Kzenon/Bigstock

It’s a fairly bizarre story, and although you can read the whole thing at Slate, I’ll give you the rundown right here: TrueCar was the brainchild of a “professional disrupter” who specialized in founding companies that added an unnecessary level of Internet-ness to existing processes — think eToys or Pets.com. TrueCar had a lot of initial success before “going through the Swirl,” which is how TrueCar refers to the near-collapse of its business a few years back. The company’s founder had to ask the board for a raise so he could keep his Aston Martins, which emotionally damaged and triggered him to the point that he had to go to counseling.

I know, right? Just when you think that there’s nobody out there less likeable than a dealership principal, along comes a guy who needs therapy because he got a massive raise. But wait, it gets worse. After therapy, TrueCar’s founder “pivoted” towards helping dealerships make more money, because somehow that would be even more disruptive. The cynic in me thinks this 43-year-old billionaire just finally figured out what most teenagers learn with their first lemonade stand, and what pretty much all automotive journalists learn after their second press trip: if you have a choice between screwing over the people you talk to every day or screwing over some random person off the street, the smart business move is to prefer the interests of the former over the interests of the latter.

To make this as plain as possible: TrueCar is a “consumer service” that helps dealers maintain profit. So, there is absolutely no reason you should ever waste a moment of your time with TrueCar. At least, that’s how I personally saw it prior to last week, when I used TrueCar for the first time. Not that I wanted to use TrueCar, mind you. I just had no choice, because my mom made me use TrueCar.

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By on July 10, 2017

img_4426

July of 2013. Somewhere between Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, with the scorching summer sun beating down upon the bleached blacktop. Colin Firth’s perfectly accented voice reading the conclusion of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair.

My white 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 carried me towards San Bernardino from Albuquerque on my journey to Cayucos, where I was headed to visit my great uncle through the nothingness of the desert and the interminable heat. It can drive a person crazy, particularly when you’re alone. While I don’t mind being alone, sometimes it’s not best to stew in your own thoughts for that long of a stretch. Instead, I listened to audio books on my iPhone, connected to the Bose stereo system via an auxiliary cable. The Tahoe had Bluetooth capability for phone but not for media. I didn’t mind.

My Tahoe has witnessed, and at times been party to, the ends of many an affair. The beginnings, as well — changing relationships, changing jobs, moving homes. The big white truck carried me both willingly and reluctantly from one place to the next, safely and successfully weathering storms both meteorological and emotional. It carried my amazing daughter, my German shepherd, Stella, and my most personal belongings on the journey from Albuquerque to Columbus. From time to time, it has also carried my preferred demons. It made sure I arrived to countless physical therapy appointments and home from several surgeries. In the 114,524 miles we were together, it betrayed me only once.

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By on June 23, 2017

2017 Civic Type R (European Version), Image: Honda

The release of the Civic Type R has created a lot of buzz. The recent media launch generated plenty of opinions as to its performance, including some reviewers who believe Honda has underrated the CTR in the same manner it has done with the Accord V6 in the past.

Their speculation seemed to be proven true as a video released from a shop in Puerto Rico showed the car making 301 wheel horsepower. Many outlets reported on the dyno test and, while some showed the data with a little skepticism thrown in, others went all in and told us that the CTR has hidden horsepower.

The real truth behind the dyno test is that it is valueless. We do not have any data on its calibration or the weather, and the dyno operator could have applied any correction factor on the data to boost the results. This is not an isolated case in reporting sketchy dyno results, as I see it multiple times per month from various outlets and, in just about every case, the data and reporting are meaningless.  Read More >

By on June 23, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Image: GM

Another month, another fresh batch of Burgerkingring-related stupidity. This time it’s the General Motors PR machine and its ever-reliable Southern California appendix stirring the hype for the new Camaro ZL1 1LE, which obtained a seven-minutes-and-change time when driven by an engineer around the course.

Nine times out of 10 I ignore this stuff entirely, but insofar as I was at the Ring just two weeks before the Camaro crew got there I thought this would be a good time to remind everybody out there why these times are completely and utterly meaningless.

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By on June 14, 2017

2017 Dodge Durango GT, Image © 2017 Corey Lewis/The Truth About Cars

This past week, your humble author spent three days on vacation with a rented 2017 Dodge Durango GT. The black wagon you see above is the result of terseness at the Enterprise counter, where I had a reservation for a “Standard, Buick Verano or similar” vehicle, but where a base model Elantra with 25,000 miles, stained seats, and wheel covers was presented by the Enterprise staff.

The Durango was equipped with the Navigation and Power Liftgate Group, bringing its price to around $42,000 before incentives. That’s far too much coin for the irritation this vehicle causes.

All things considered, the Elantra may have been less annoying to drive.

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By on June 12, 2017

Mark Stevenson in 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass S, Image: © Kayla Ross

Let’s keep this short, shall we?

This Friday will be my last day as The Truth About Cars’ managing editor. On Monday, I begin a new career elsewhere, outside of journalism but still in the automotive industry.

But this isn’t really a goodbye. I’ll be vacating the seat to sit in another as an editor-at-large here at TTAC, and will stay for as long as my replacement will have me.

Speaking of my replacement …

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By on June 6, 2017

What The Truck?

And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
The worst that I can find
And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
But I rely on mine

“Can’t Be Sure” was The Sundays’ brilliant 1989 debut, introducing all of us to the lovely Harriet Wheeler and her ability to sing the most heartbreaking lyrics possible in the voice of a spoiled British child. I took the above stanza to heart the minute I heard it, because it took something that had long animated me and put it into a few simple words. It’s no wonder that the Zen philosophers preach a detachment from desire, because it drives our worst and most selfish behaviors. Virtually every regrettable or repugnant episode in my life has begun with me looking at something (or, more often, someone) and pronouncing, like Henderson The Rain King, “I WANT!”

Yes, desire is a terrible thing — but I rely on mine, as I’ve recently been reminded. You see, I need a full-size pickup. But need is in no way synonymous with desire, so I’m absolutely stuck in the mud trying to figure out what I should do next.

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