Category: Media

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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By on March 15, 2010

Jim Sikes’ Prius high-speed dash to fame or infamy is a media hype-fest, with wild swings in sentiment from Toyota bashing to Sikes trashing. The rush to judgment is innately human, and Sikes certainly makes an easy target. But in the process, very little effort has been made to analyze what actually happened, or what might have actually happened, on the basis of the facts rather than Jim Sikes’ financial history and sexual proclivities. Read More >

By on March 14, 2010

A few days ago, James Sikes and his runaway Prius was all over news. Until we mentioned that something is fishy. Sikes’ driving skills were put in question. Stories about a wife swapping website emerged. Stories about bankruptcy. Stories about an unpaid lease on the Prius. And sundry other stories. Quickly, Sikes turned into Balloon Boy 2.0

Michael Fumento, director of the Independent Journalism Project, went on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business and said: “It appears that everybody on planet earth suspected that there was something horribly wrong with this picture – except for the national media. The real hoax wasn’t James Sikes, it was in fact our press.” Read More >

By on March 7, 2010

[Note: This piece first ran in May 2007. It seems particularly relevant again in light of the current Toyota unintended acceleration (UA) situation. But please note that the circumstance that caused the Audi UA may, or may not be very different, depending on the circumstances. In the early eighties, electronic gas pedals and complex engine controls and other interfaces such as with ABS/brakes were still on the horizon. Nevertheless, the rules of physics have not been repealed. And an unknown percentage of Toyota UA events undoubtedly are the result of pedal misapplication. Audi’s near collapse in the American market after this incident remains a painful lesson in the power of the media, the slowness of the NHTSA, and the critical PR choices manufacturers make in the wake of a crisis like this. PN]

When I first heard about the Audi “sudden unintended acceleration” segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1986, I knew instantly that they were blowing smoke. Literally. Read More >

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