Category: Media

By on June 26, 2011

 

Dan Gurney signing autographs for members of the the media at the 2008 New York Auto Show

The big OEM car show season is over and now that summer is here, it’s time for car shows, meets and cruises. For the people who work for marketing in the car companies and in the aftermarket it’s really a year long season. I see some of the same faces at the NAIAS, the Detroit Autorama, the Hot Rod Power Tour and the Woodward Dream Cruise..

I’ve attended press previews of some of the big auto shows since 2002. I’ve worked Detroit every year since, Chicago every year but ’09, and Toronto a couple of times when it didn’t conflict with Chicago. A car show media preview is not the same as the public car show and not just because there is staging and seating for the press and the displays are not in their final form. In a word the difference is access. During the public days, some of the cars are locked, and the ultra luxury and exotic rides are completely roped off from the unwashed masses. If you have a question to ask, there are trained product spokes men and women who will tell you about the floor models or give you a shpiel about a concept vehicle. There may be some sales reps from local dealers as well who will gladly give you a business card. You never see an executive from an automaker on the show floor during the public days. If there are celebrities, like racers, athletes and entertainers making personal appearances, they too are usually behind ropes and if autographs are available, the lines are long.

The media preview is completely different. Aside from its utility to journalists, for a car guy or gal it’s an auto show on an exponential scale. Yes there are models and product specialists on the turntables and around the displays who can try to answer you questions, but more important there are all the executives, product managers, engineers, designers and marketing people involved in making this year’s tangerine flake streamline babies. I like to talk to pretty ladies as much as the next guy so the models and booth professionals are fine with me. If I have a question or comment about a car, though, I think the chief designer could probably answer my question better than someone who’s learned a script. If you had your choice of people to talk cars with, wouldn’t you pick Carroll Shelby over someone hired by a talent agency?

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By on June 1, 2011

Mark Modica, a former Saturn dealer GM bondholder, has leveraged his financial loss at the hands of the government bailout into a blogging position at the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit that “promotes ethics in public life through research, investigation, education and legal action.” At the NLPC, Modica focuses on what he believes to be corruption surrounding the auto bailout, and has written a series of anti-GM posts that make TTAC look like a Detroit hometown newspaper (TTAC “bias police,” take note). Most recently, Modica has caught the attention of the auto media, including Automobile Magazine and Jalopnik, with a series of posts accusing Chevy dealers of “scamming” taxpayers by claiming the Volt’s $7,500 tax credit and then selling Volts as used cars. TTAC welcomes anyone seeking to cast more light on the bailout, but unfortunately, Modica’s attacks are too focused on making GM look bad and not focused enough on providing relevant information to the American people. Let’s take a look and see why…

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By on March 30, 2011

Back in 1976, the Italian automaker Fiat had been badly battered by a global energy crisis and the resulting malaise infecting the global auto industry. In what Time Magazine described at the time as “a devastatingly ironic example of petropower,” Col. Muammar Gaddafi instructed his Libyan Arab Foreign Bank to invest some $415m into the Italian automaker, giving it a stake that would eventually grow to some 14 percent of the firm’s equity.

By 1986, Fiat’s Libyan stakeholders were becoming more trouble than they were worth. In the wake of the Lockerbie bombings, the US introduced sanctions on Libya, and Fiat’s Libyan connection left its attempts to bid for US military contracts (particularly those related to Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative) dead on arrival. As a result, Fiat and its shareholders bought back the entire 14 percent Libyan stake in the firm, presenting the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank-controlled Banca UBAE with a $3.1b check. And, according to what a Fiat spokesperson told us yesterday, that is where the story ends. But thanks to the now-ubiquitous Wikileaks, we have found that this story may in fact go farther than that. In fact, as the evidence stands right now, either the US State Department is working with bad information (which major news sources have yet to correct), or Fiat is lying about its ties to the embattled Gaddafi regime.

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By on March 29, 2011

I know, the sniping at Jalopnik is getting old, and I’m sure this article will receive a lot of complaints. But this is The Truth About Cars, and the truth must be told. Banking on the limited attention span of its readers, Gawker’s outlet for things remotely related to cars headlined yesterday: “European Union wants to ban gas, diesel cars by 2050.” A headline like that is sure to produce clicks. Too bad, clicking readers are being had.

Just for this occasion, we break the TTAC rule of not copypasting whole articles. Here is the Jalopnik article in full length:

“The European Union’s transport chief wants to ban diesel or gas-burning vehicles in cities by 2050, mainly through higher taxes and new rules. Maybe now’s the time to start broadening those U.S. import rules…

That’s it. No more. Where’s the beef the Jalopies have with the brutal transport chief?

The site that just a few days ago did pride itself of its investigative journalism skills, not only fornicated the puppy on this one, it also missed out on the juicy stuff. Read More >

By on February 10, 2011

The Truth About Cars is excited to announce that in our relentless drive towards globalization, TTAC has now added a Polish edition. Read More >

By on February 8, 2011

In the rarefied world of auto journalism, EVO magazine has assumed a place at the top of the food chain, for its derring-do tales of “flat out motoring”, performance car snobbery of the highest order and rich douchebag “contributors” whose only qualification is owning an absurdly expensive car that masquerades as a “long term tester”.

Like foodies, hipsters and other urban vermin, the EVO crew clearly gets off on the elitism of motoring rather than the appreciation of an automobile or the joy of driving. Figures then, that Chris Harris, supposedly a thinking man’s Jeremy Clarkson, criticized the Mazda MX-5 as being “shit”. According to Harris, the Mazda is “slow, imprecise and unsatisfying”. On what planet?

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By on February 8, 2011

[Ed: With today's news of NHTSA's investigation results, we thought we'd look back at TTAC's coverage of the Toyota Unintended Acceleration scandal.]

The Toyota Unintended Acceleration Scandal of 2010 was a curious beastie of a media phenomenon. Shortly after I started writing for TTAC, NHTSA opened an investigation into Toyota Tacomas because, as the Center for Auto Safety’s Clarence Ditlow put it,

If there were truly human error, there would be a proportional distribution across models. It’s very difficult to explain how some makes and models have higher numbers of complaints than others absent some flaw in the vehicle.

Fresh as I was to writing about the world of cars, I was sure I had the story dead to rights. I had seen this movie before, when my father told me his epic Parnelli Jones Unintended Acceleration story. Dad had even killed the the family pickup’s engine at a traffic light to prove it… and I knew how bad the brakes in the old Ford were (but that’s another story). Absent a better explanation than mere statistical likelihood, I knew there was only one cause for this problem. With a level of confidence that seems totally at odds with subsequent events, I concluded by suggesting that

the Detroit Free Press and Motor Trend blog, are trying to resuscitate the [Audi 5000] media frenzy, only this time Toyota’s to blame for people mistaking the accelerator for their brake pedal… If a TTAC reader out there has a Tacoma, perhaps they would do us the honor of standing on the brakes while mashing the accelerator for a few seconds. This should prove fairly simply that “unintended acceleration” is possible only when you are not actually on the brakes.

It was that simple… wasn’t it?

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By on February 7, 2011

Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad starring the city of Detroit and its new 200 sedan may have captured the imagination of American industry-watchers, but its timing was highly inauspicious. As the ad was launched, Chrysler was being thrust into a kind of transnational custody battle between US taxpayers and the Italian government, a battle that underscores the ambiguous benefits of national bailouts of multinational companies. At the same time, Chrysler workers have once again made news by getting caught partaking in controlled substances during a lunch break, an awkward representation of the culture of the city that Chrysler is so desperate to re-inspire faith in. And even outside of the controversies swirling around America’s most challenged domestic automaker, there are signs that the phenomenon that can be termed “automotive nationalism” is outliving its usefulness. Chrysler may argue that “what we make makes us,” but appeals to the national or regional character of a car are not simply misleading… they’re downright dangerous.
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By on December 17, 2010

One of the more admirable qualities of the blogging culture is a relentless underdog streak. Anyone who mans the ramparts of a decent blog is forever scouring the worlds of business, media and opinion for an opportunity to attack the most prominent voices of the day. And TTAC is no exception: we certainly came up by attacking the apologists and Polyannas who are still massively overrepresented in the world of automotive commentary. But what a difference a bailout makes. While the mainstream automotive media spent much of the leadup to the auto bailout making apologies and excuses for Detroit’s decline, TTAC told the unpleasant truth, gaining us new readers and credibility every step of the way. Now that I find myself being asked to contribute to one of the most prestigious opinion outlets in the world (the NY Times op-ed page) on a regular basis, TTAC is no longer the underdog, and other blogs have stepped into the breach to attack us as the new status quo. Fair enough… let’s do this thing.

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By on September 2, 2010

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Automotive Journalism recently got their hands on a trio of Corvettes just for fun. But what unfolded was on the verge of hilarity, if not for their self-proclaimed journalistic superiority over us “punk kids with lots of servers and a desire to get free test drives.”

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By on August 9, 2010

I ought to start this article off with the reasons as to why I decided to write this article. I got scalded recently for criticizing Jack Baruth’s article on why Top Gear USA will fail. On reflection, the scalding was well earned. It’s a bit unprofessional to criticize a fellow worker’s work no matter how much you disagree with it.

But this set off a light bulb in my head. Why should I post a comment about why I disagree with an article, and get browbeaten, if I can write an article of my own, highlighting my thoughts? Isn’t that the American way? Why give something away for free, when you can sell it? Read More >

By on June 26, 2010


TTAC readers, the Best and the Brightest, seemed to have liked the first Magazine Memories so I started to sort and  organize the boxes of old buff books in the basement, with an eye towards another column for you guys. The first piece was about a Sports Car Graphic from 1969, a golden age for both performance cars and auto racing. I thought it would be interesting, by way of contrast, to look at an era of less worthy automobiles, the “malaise era”, so named because of a speech given by Jimmy Carter during his presidency that attempted to address a sense of national lethargy. Though Carter never actually used the word malaise, the tag stuck. Looking at magazines from the middle of the Carter years, the winter of 1980-81, though, the cars were so boring and mediocre that I thought it’d be too much of a challenge to even joke about how boring and mediocre they were.
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By on May 20, 2010

The auto-journo world has been a-Twitter all night about the journo’s kid who crashed a 997 Turbo.. The actual “crash” doesn’t amount to much (about fifteen grand in damage to car and house, most of it covered by insurance) but the article Peter Cheney wrote to describe the incident provides some near-priceless insight into the manner by which automotive “journalism” has become PR by another name.

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By on May 10, 2010

With strong new auto safety legislation being debated in congress,the role and scope of government regulation in the auto industry is becoming a hotly-contested issue. But one important consideration is being left out of the discussion: the role of private “regulation” of the auto industry. Even as the new legislation was being drafted, we were treated to an object lesson in non-governmental regulation when the non-profit Consumer Reports issued a “do not buy” warning for the Lexus GX after it exhibited lift-off oversteer on a test course. Because CR performs independent testing on a wide variety of dealer-example vehicles, it was able to detect this error, which prompted Toyota to stop sales and production of the model until a fix was released. Throughout the incident, NHTSA played second fiddle to CR, merely checking the non-profit’s work. The lesson: a subscriber-based, non-profit is the real front line of US auto regulation. But, as the Wall Street Journal [sub] reports, Consumer Reports is being shadowed by another organization called Consumers Digest… and you don’t want to make the mistake of confusing the one with the other.

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By on April 3, 2010

The New York Auto Show was a surprisingly robust event with a feast of products for any price point.  But covering a show of this magnitude as a lone reporter was no small feat. With a wealth of product comes a wealth of showy stage productions and, of course, a metric ton of happy babble from the company men. They have their job, I have mine. On to the truth.

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