The Truth About Cars » Housekeeping The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Housekeeping Housekeeping: I Don’t Like It Any More Than You Do Wed, 30 Apr 2014 21:27:20 +0000

My reluctance to even consider banning or otherwise silencing members of the B&B has become so well-known that a few of you have taken to making fun of me about it. The truth is simply that I value every member of the TTAC community. You’re too valuable to lose, and I try to keep sight of that fact.

Some men, however, you just can’t reach.

Since instituting our no-ban policy, I’ve reached out to six different commenters who consistently strayed past the boundaries of courtesy in their interactions. Five of those six times, I’ve been able to come to an agreement with the individual in question and they’ve been able to keep contributing. However, my conversations with the person known as agenthex and u mad scientist haven’t been as productive as I’d hoped. Therefore, he’s gone as of right now.

I dislike a public hanging nearly as much as the need for it, so in the future we are not going to do a post every time we ban someone. The purpose for this post is simple: I want to apologize to you, the B&B, for my failure to control this person and my failure to redirect his obvious passion for the automotive hobby into a less destructive channel. I’m hoping that this is the last time I do something like this. Thank you for participating at TTAC. You’re all important to us, and to me.

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Housekeeping: Tied To The Whippin’ Post Tue, 25 Mar 2014 18:29:12 +0000 1395396019024

We have very few rules for commenters here at TTAC. Not everyone is comfortable with that; some of our longer-serving friends remember with undisguised fondness the days when Mr. Farago ruled with an iron hand and “moderated” the posts the way a Ma Deuce “moderates” a field of mounted cavalry.

We’re also big believers in anonymity. There are multiple auto-industry people at TTAC who have privately disclosed their status in the business to us or simply signed up with their work e-mail, but we don’t share that with the world at large. Anonymity is, frankly, critical to the free flow of ideas in a world where people lose their jobs for saying the wrong thing in an arena completely unrelated to the rest of their lives.

This past weekend, we had two issues with anonymity. One was our fault — or, more properly speaking, my fault, since I permitted it to happen — and the other was the work of someone with an axe to grind.

Both of these issues have been resolved.

On Sunday, we had a post entitled “The Week That Was” by the author “Zombie McQuestionbot”. I created the Z. McQ alias some time ago based on the idea that jokey “ask the audience” posts neither require nor particularly deserve attribution, because they aren’t creative work. When you go to McDonald’s and buy a BigMac, it doesn’t come with a signature on it, because making a Big Mac is not creative work. The same is true for a “What’s Your Favorite Corvette?” or “What’s The Deal With Diesel Wagons?” post. It’s junk food, the kind of stuff you can get anywhere on the web. We have it here because when we don’t have it, people complain.

Most of the Zombie posts are written by me but I’ll hand them out sometimes when I’m busy. (Bark M. has never written one; when you think it’s Bark, it’s probably me.) This past weekend I was at Putnam Park getting my track legs underneath me again so I subbed out a Z. McQ post to another writer. In an effort to amuse me and/or further his prospects at TTAC, this writer took a swing at a former contributor of ours. Not by name, mind you, but by identifying certain characteristics of that contributor.

The resulting post was harshly criticized by the B&B, and justifiably so. As a result, it’s been deleted and the “Zombie McQuestionbot” alias will join “TTAC Staff” on the ash heap of history. From now on, we’ll attribute QOTD and Week That Was posts to the appropriate writers. I hope the B&B will accept my apology for permitting this to happen on my watch.

At approximately the same time that the Sunday post went up, we had a couple of new users register. These users used junk e-mail addresses and made their contributions using the Tor network of anonymizing proxy servers. Their posts, which usually occurred within two or three minutes of each other, contained various poorly-disguised attempts to rehabilitate the reputations of two former TTAC editors-in-chief. They also contained references to content published in a private Facebook group that is invitation-only for PR people and journalists in the auto industry. Last but not least, they contained allegations that are untrue regarding TTAC’s relationship with its writers both past and present.

I don’t believe in banning users, so we aren’t banning these users. Instead, we’re holding their usernames in a nice little lockbox, safe and secure, waiting for their owners to come claim them. All that’s required is for the people (or, more likely, person) to contact me with the identifying information for those usernames. Then that person and I will have a quick chat about his behavior, and he’ll be granted the permission to contribute again to our community. When I speak to this person, I’ll probably teach him a little bit about how Tor routes connections, so he can better disguise his geographical location next time.

The most frustrating part about this is that it represents a clear attempt to force us to break our commitment to the B&B of an open and largely Stasi-free environment. Not to worry; we will continue to wield the scalpel in preference to the broadsword. Your contributions are too vital for us to dispense with them. If you want to read an auto news website where commenters don’t exist and every opposing voice is immediately silenced, you can find that in China. But you won’t find it here.

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Housekeeping: Do You Want The “Director’s Cut”? Sat, 22 Feb 2014 18:57:30 +0000 Scion_FR-S_3-22-2012-Toyota-Motorsports-Kickoff-Day-USA-100-57

At TTAC, I take it for granted that most of the B&B have more real-life experience and a better grasp on industry matters than I do. Sometimes, it can be detrimental.


When Road & Track asked me to do a guest post on the slow sales of the Scion FR-S and how it might impact the future course of upgrades for the car, I wrote a 700 word piece going in-depth and explaining many of the granular details behind the economics of the auto industry. My TTAC piece, though well received, was much shorter and skimmed over many of the broader topics.

What I want is for you, the readers, to let me know what course of action you prefer. Should I keep giving you a brief rundown of the topic at hand, assuming that you can fill in the blanks yourselves? Or would you prefer a more fleshed-out “director’s cut” version, even if it’s a topic that is already familiar to you?

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Housekeeping: Are We Keeping It Civil? Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:36:05 +0000 monitor_and_merrimac

Gone are the days here at TTAC where simply typing a phrase like, “You, Sir, are a usefully idiotic pawn of the Chinese government and a despicable fetishist of rubber pleasure devices” could get you banned from this site in two shakes of a Shanghai working girl’s tail. No longer. People say the meanest things about me and Derek, and we don’t care. Actually, Derek gets a little teary-eyed about it, so we rewrote his contract to specify that “PART IV. COMPENSATION FOR RIDICULE. Every time the phrase “game-changer”, complete with hyphen, appears on the site in obvious and plain reference to Derek Kreindler, he shall be compensated with one thousand dollars ($1,000) or two nights with a Lamborghini Aventador.”

But that’s not what we want to talk about right now. Actually, “we” means “I”; Derek’s out somewhere making it rain at a club while they tow his double-parked Aventador from the entrance.

In the seven months since the TTAC reboot, we haven’t banned a single legitimate user account from contributing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the level of discourse has been pretty civil. About once a day, however, someone simply loses their cool and calls someone besides me or Derek a mean name. And then tempers flare.

The purpose of this post is to take your temperature about the level of conversation here. Do we need to tighten the reins a little bit? If so, how should that take place? Should we warn the offenders? Disappear them? Have a giant contest where we select the “Top Troll” and encourage everyone to turn on each other in a kind of bizarre sharks-in-the-water scenario? Let us know.

As always, we appreciate every single TTAC reader, lurker, contributor, flame-war veteran, and critic. Thanks for choosing us, even if it’s only to make game-changer jokes. Damn! Now we owe Derek another “stack”!

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To Our Editor In Chief Pro Tempore: Get Well Soon Sun, 05 Jan 2014 16:21:23 +0000 baruthjacketjorts

Our Editor in Chief pro tempore, Jack Baruth, was injured an automobile collision near Columbus Saturday. His injuries were serious but he is expected to make a full recovery. Last night, Jack posted the following to his Facebook page:

This is Rumor Control. Involved in 40mph offset today on rural road. Wasn’t speeding, the other car wasn’t speeding, we just hit some ice. My son’s fine. My partner is in the proverbial dire straits. I had spleen surgery and I’ve broken the stuff I broke in 1988 — minus the neck. 


In the meantime, all of his colleagues are keeping him in our thoughts and prayers, wishing for him to have a recovery as speedy as he is on the track.

Once again, Jack, all of us wish you a return to full health as soon as possible.

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What’s This S#!+ About A TTAC E-Newsletter Wed, 07 Aug 2013 14:12:54 +0000 spam022

Have you noticed that lately we’ve added a little box at the end of most stories asking you to sign up for the “TTAC E-Newsletter”? Sure you have. You’re observant like that. But why would you possibly want to do such a thing?

It’s simple, really. Once a week or so, we’re going to send a wrap-up of the week’s best stuff to you. That way, if you’ve been busy, distracted, incarcerated, whatever, you won’t miss the topics and articles that stirred the most discussion and interest. If you decide you don’t want it, we’ll take you back off the list.

Some of the newsletters — as many as we can manage — will also have some “behind-the-scenes” stuff. Why didn’t we get Car X to review? What did So-and-So say to us when we exposed their political/textual/on-track maneuvering? That sort of thing.

As of yet, we haven’t actually sent any E-newsletters. We’re still working on the format. But if you want to be first in line, now’s the time to do it. And yeah, we’ll probably give something away to our newsletter readers. Don’t worry, it won’t be a new Aventador or anything like that. Maybe a new Aventador brochure. Assuming we can’t sell said brochure on eBay. What are you waiting for? Sign up already!

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Housekeeping: Niedermeyer Parts Ways With TTAC Tue, 31 Jul 2012 17:56:29 +0000

“And all the troubled world around us
Seems an eternity away
And all the debt collectors
Rent collectors
All will be behind us
But they’ll never find us
‘Cos we’ll be dri-i-i-i-ivin’”

-The Kinks “Drivin’”

The last time I made an announcement about my status here at TTAC, I made it clear in the headline that I was bidding the site “au revoir” rather than “adieu.” Having taken an opportunity to work in politics for a year, I was absolutely planning on returning to the fold. Unfortunately, that plan has now changed, and I have informed TTAC’s owners that today will be my last day on the site’s masthead.

With my planned yearlong sojourn over halfway complete, why would I choose to part ways with TTAC now? As with all business relationships, the answer isn’t simple. However, in hopes of avoiding the kind of speculation swirling around GM’s mysteriously-departed Chief Marketing Officer, Joel Ewanick, I’ll explain the situation as well as I can. After receiving permission from TTAC’s owners, VerticalScope, to take a year’s absence from the site, I was told that the company was interested in discussing an opportunity with me upon my return. Starting several months ago, I began discussing that opportunity with VerticalScope, and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time developing a proposal for them. After several meetings, the company informed me that my plans would not be adopted, for reasons that I had an extremely difficult time understanding. The thinking underlying the company’s decision and my experience interacting with it led me to believe that its goals and culture are incompatible with my continued professional development, which in turn led me to this decision.

On one point I want to be perfectly clear: this decision is not about TTAC, its future or its management. Though I may not see eye-to-eye with TTAC’s owners on a variety of broader issues, I give the company immense credit for its dedication to TTAC’s independence. This site’s freedom to publish what it wishes, and VerticalScope’s support for its continued growth are not in question here; my decision to leave TTAC is a personal one, based on my personal passions and ambitions. And as long as TTAC’s independence and brand values remain, I am convinced that this site will continue to grow into an ever-more crucial role in the auto media landscape.

As for myself, the picture is less clear. After my current contract expires at the end of this year, I intend to return to the automotive world in some capacity… although I currently have no specific plans for where and how that will happen. Having studied politics in college, I now find that my education at TTAC was by far the more formative experience, and I look forward to finding a new outlet for the kind of learning, growth and engagement I quite accidentally found here at TTAC. I’ve never been a “car guy” in the traditional sense, but TTAC’s readers have shown that there is a market for automotive writing that goes beyond the sheetmetal and into the laws, economics, politics and culture of the automobile. Having had the privilege of learning from some of the sharpest minds in the auto industry, both on TTAC’s masthead and in its commenter pool, I take this step into the unknown with confidence.

Of course, I owe an eternal debt to the people who have made my experience here at TTAC what it’s been. Most importantly, I must thank Robert Farago for founding this site and believing in me… without him, none of this would have been possible. I also have to thank my father, Paul Niedermeyer, both for encouraging me to start freelancing here in the first place, and providing crucial support ever since. TTAC’s current Editor-in-Chief, Bertel Schmitt, has been a true mentor to me, and for taking TTAC’s reins in his capable hands, I can not thank him enough. And all of TTAC’s amazingly talented editors and writers, especially those who believed in me when few others did, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s been an honor to work with each of you.

Finally, my deepest regards go out to TTAC’s commentariat, the Best and Brightest. I think every writer on this site, indeed everyone who regularly visits automotive blogs, can agree that the discourse here at TTAC is some of the finest to be found anywhere on the web. Certainly you have collectively served as the greatest teacher I have ever had. And in contrast to the kinds of discourse I’m regularly exposed to in the world of politics, I can say without hesitation that TTAC’s comment section gives me faith in this country’s ability to reason its way through problems. To those of you I’ve met and known individually, stay in touch and I hope to see you again soon. To those of you who remain my anonymous teachers and friends, thank you for your wisdom and support.

Before this gets too emotional for me, I’ll just note that I can always be found on Twitter at @Tweetermeyer. Oh, and I’ll definitely be found in the comments section here when time permits. TTAC may be losing an editor, but it’s gaining a commenter… and a fan for life.

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Happy Holidays From TTAC Sat, 24 Dec 2011 03:56:06 +0000 From our family to yours, TTAC wishes all its readers the best of holiday wishes. We’ll be enjoying the company of our loved ones for the next few chilly winter nights, but we’ll return to regular service on Tuesday. And who knows, maybe Santa will leave something for your reading enjoyment over the weekend…


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Housekeeping: Niedermeyer Says Au Revoir, But Not Adieu Thu, 01 Dec 2011 22:57:01 +0000

This time tomorrow I will be on an airplane, and for the first time in quite a while I will not be on my to some auto-related destination on behalf of TTAC. That’s right, I’m actually taking a vacation, which I will spend introducing my lovely life partner to the European continent and visiting family in my ancestral homeland of Austria. Of course, TTAC has become such a big part of my life that even my vacation will have a work-related angle: I’ll be spending each week with a different not-available-in-America car that I think should be of some considerable interest to you, our readers. But this is also just the first of two breaks that I’ll be taking from TTAC: in January, I’ll be stepping down as TTAC’s Editor-in-Chief for the calendar year 2012, to pursue a one-year opportunity outside of the field of automotive journalism. Even as I write those words, I can scarcely believe them… I’ve lived and breathed TTAC for so long now, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without it. But do not fear: not only do I leave TTAC in incredibly capable hands, I’m also not gone for good. You won’t be rid of me that easily.

The opportunity that I will be pursuing over the course of 2012 happened upon me suddenly, when an old friend called and asked for my help. His business, in the field of online political fundraising, has been booming, and he asked if I could step in and help manage its growth and bring my writing/editing experience to bear. I had no desire to leave TTAC, which I still consider my dream job, but the chance to work with an old friend, and do something entirely different for a year was too much to ignore. I had no doubt that TTAC’s team could continue our strong momentum without me, and when our owners at VerticalScope gave me the OK to step down for a year, I felt compelled to make the leap. I am not looking to leave TTAC or the auto media behind for the world of politics, and I certainly have no ideological motivations for doing what I’m doing… the simple fact is that I’m a challenge junkie, and the opportunity to throw myself into an entirely new world and a new set of challenges for a year is just too tempting.

But even so, I can’t bring myself to completely tear myself away from this amazing community, even for just one year. I will remain on TTAC’s masthead as Editor-at-Large, I’ll remain involved in the site’s management and editorial direction, and I’ll even contribute from time to time, as my schedule permits. Stepping into the Editor-in-Chief role will be my trusted right-hand-man and mentor, current Managing Editor Bertel Schmitt. From his home base in Tokyo, Bertel will be managing TTAC’s incredible team of contributors, who will also be stepping up to carry some of the slack. I’m also proud to announce that Derek Kreindler will be moving over from Autoguide to become TTAC’s new News Editor. Under Bertel’s leadership and with the addition of Derek’s dynamic talents, TTAC’s team will be stronger than ever, and I have every confidence that 2012 will see continued excellence and growth here at TTAC. I promise, you’ll hardly miss me. If, for some strange reason, you do want to follow my adventures over the next year, I finally broke down and did what I said I never would: I signed up for a personal Twitter account. Henceforth, you can find me under the handle “@tweetermeyer,” although I can’t promise that it will actually be worth following.

I’ll forgo the the usual litany of thanks and acknowledgments here, not because I’m not grateful for everyone who makes TTAC possible, but because I can hardly thank or acknowledge any one person involved with this site without thanking them all. One of my main goals as TTAC’s Editor-in-Chief was to ensure that this site and this brand became bigger than any one person, and our success here really has been a collaboration between tens of thousands of people. From our staff to our commenter base, TTAC occupies an exemplary niche in the automotive media because of our shared commitment to excellence, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve all been able to accomplish here. So my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has ever been a part of making TTAC what it is today. Keep the faith and TTAC’s future will be eternally bright.

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TTAC In The WSJ: A Review Of “Once Upon A Car” Sat, 26 Nov 2011 18:20:21 +0000

Having read most of the latest raft of auto industry books, with titles like “Car Crash,” “Overhaul,” and “Sixty To Zero,” I have to say, Bill Vlasic’s “Once Upon A Car” is my favorite of the bunch. Not only does it lack the parochial form and voice that define too many of theses tomes, it populates its narrative with rich dialogue and intriguing character studies. In short, it’s got all of the lessons about industry, culture, and competition that you’d expect from a modern study of the auto industry, but it presents them in such a way that they never feel like a lecture or a business school study. Instead you get a well-spun yarn, still-newsworthy anecdotes and an unvarnished look at industry dynamics on their highest level. If ever there were to be a modern movie based on the auto industry, Vlasic’s book should be its basis. Read my full review over at The Wall Street Journal.

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Happy Thanksgiving From TTAC Thu, 24 Nov 2011 17:37:56 +0000 We’ve got a lot to be thankful for here at TTAC. We’ve been having a great 2011, growing our traffic, earning awards and hosting some of the best conversations about cars to be found on the web. I am personally extremely grateful for our fantastic staff, who continue to surprise and delight with their sharp insights, brilliant writing, and tireless dedication. I’m also quite thankful for our owners at VerticalScope this Thanksgiving, for their unwavering commitment to TTAC’s independence and excellence. But most deserving of our thanks and recognition today are you, our readers. Not only do your visits and occasional ad-clicks pay the bills around here, but your comments and contributions are an irreplaceable element of TTAC’s special recipe. When I surf elsewhere, I’m continually reminded of how low discourse can fall on these tubes we call the internet, and it never ceases to fill my heart with appreciation for the (mostly) reasoned, civil, constructive conversations we’re able to have here. Communities are a fragile thing in this age of fragmenting societies, and words can not express how grateful I am that this community is as strong, vibrant, diverse, challenging, informative and resilient as it is. So, to everyone who helps make TTAC what it is, my humble, heartfelt thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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TTAC Project Car: Thank YOU, Best and Brightest! Tue, 01 Nov 2011 20:33:10 +0000  



TTAC Commentator Diewaldo writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I didn’t know how to contact you otherwise, but I found your Sierra in Nürburg. It seems to be still in good shape. I have uploaded a photo, here is the link.

Greetings from the Eifel,


Sajeev Answers:

OMG, SON! You offered to do just that in our last installment, and you kept your promise.  Has the Internet made the world that small? The fact that USAF Captain Mike found this car in a UK Classic Car advert online, while living in God-Knows-Where (don’t ask, he’ll have to kill you) and while chatting with me on Facebook during the working hour is your first clue that our world has completely changed thanks to technology.

And my fiduciary promise via Facebook sealed the deal. Mike, his bestest UK mates, and TWO of my dearest friends (one from Somerset, another traveled all the way from Houston to see it, THEN rub it in my face)  have fondled and violated that precious bond of brown paint, Ghia trimmings and honest RWD Ford engineering in some way/shape/form…while I’ve had no interaction with my Rio Brown Beauty. Zip.

Curse you, Capt Solo!


Here’s the fun part: I’ve heard of a couple of mystery decals attached to the Sierra’s chocolate laquer, and everyone kept their mouth shut. “You will know when you open the container” is the usual response to my demands. Thanks to the Best and Brightest, mystery solved!

Now I see the “GB” decal on the Sierra’s slender hatch, and a little reminder of this ride’s dunce-cap status among real car nuts.  This ain’t a Cosworth, it’s a Ghia 5-door. It has plush velour seating, rear sunshades and is finished in Brown, for chrissakes!  Obviously this will be the butt of all jokes, in a nice way.  But who knew I’d get a proper Nürburgring decal showing how you must be a “Novice” if you roll a Sierra Ghia in Nürburg! Since he’s a good sport, Mike must be absolutely chuffed at the ribbing he gets from this car!

So yes, the Internet rocks.  Because it brings TTAC’s Best and Brightest together.  Thank you all for reading, and have a laugh or two at the remedial decal on the glass, the high resolution photo is only a click away.


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Wishing A Well Yom Kippur Sat, 08 Oct 2011 23:14:33 +0000

A day’s worth of fasting is not an easy thing to do. Not just the eating either . But cars, computers and all things electric (for the orthodox communities). For all of our Jewish readers and writers out there, we want wish all of you a well Yom Kippur and “Tsom Kal” (an easy fast) during the High Holy Days.

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Housekeeping: TTAC And Curbside Classic Joint Meet-Up In Portland Wed, 28 Sep 2011 23:12:23 +0000

Remember the good old days, when TTAC and Curbside Classics could all be found in one place? Well, for one night only we’re back together, and inviting you to hang out with the Editors-in-Chief of both sites. We’re hosting a joint meet-up at Portland, OR’s Migration Brewing Company next Thursday (10/6), starting at 5:30 pm [Map here]. So come by after work, grab a pint or three, and we’ll talk about everything from the latest industry developments to the most obscure historical anecdotes in automobile-dom. Buy one beer, get two Niedermeyers free… what more could you ask for?

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Housekeeping: Has It Really Been… Two Years? Sun, 18 Sep 2011 18:54:53 +0000

I’m not generally much for anniversaries. Heck, after more than six years together, my steady sweetie and I can’t remember our actual anniversary, so we had to make one up… and we (both) still forget it most years. But here on the internet, there’s a record of everything. And looking back, it seems that it was exactly two years ago today that Robert Farago called me to say that The Truth About Cars was going to be my problem from now on.

Even two years removed from that tumultuous weekend, just thinking about it causes my stomach to shift uneasily. Though I’d had some indication that I might at some point become Editor-in-Chief of this fine site, the actual transition took me completely by surprise. And as I scrambled to figure out what it would take to run this site without its founder and editorial touchstone, the sense of nervous anticipation was palpable in the comments from TTAC’s regular readers. Our traffic took a graceful swan dive, key writers left (understandably), and I was almost completely overwhelmed by the challenge of taking a brand that had always relied on one immensely talented voice and guiding it into the future. If I’d known at the time that, two years later I’d be sitting where I am now, this anniversary might not be the occasion for such a flood of intense, nerve-wracking memories. But the journey from there to here is something for which I’m immensely grateful. Through the immense challenges of that fateful transition, I’ve become a better writer, a better editor, and I’ve become close with some of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And, as a result, I like to think that TTAC has become a better site.

Of course none of that would have been possible had Robert Farago not created the strongest, most compelling brand in automotive journalism… or taken a chance on a young freelancer with no automotive experience. Though the circumstances of Robert’s departure were difficult for me (as, I’m sure they were for him), my respect for, and gratitude to him remain undimmed. It took a true visionary to create a brand like TTAC and build it around DNA that would sustain it past his departure.

Similarly, I owe my father, Paul Niedermeyer, a special debt of thanks: when I took over, he quickly agreed to become my Managing Editor, providing critical moral and professional support in my, and TTAC’s, hour of need. Though the last two years have been as tumultuous for our personal relationship as they’ve been for me professionally, and though he no longer writes for TTAC, the opportunity to work with ones father is something that sticks with you. And though I often wish we could still work together, my heart swells with pride at the success he’s achieved with his own site,

Another special thanks must be reserved for the man who replaced my father as TTAC’s Managing Editor: Bertel Schmitt. Few people were as instrumental in keeping TTAC together in the post-Farago chaos, and I thank the mysterious forces of the universe every day that Bertel continues to stick by my side. His deep industry experience, his razor-sharp mind, his passionate work ethic and his wonderful sense of humor have become an indispensable part of both the TTAC brand and my own life. Anybody in this car-writing game would be honored to have Bertel as their right-hand-man, and I’m doubly honored by the knowledge that he’s stuck with me despite receiving several offers from far more established outlets.

One of the conclusions I reached within hours of digesting the reality that I would be in charge of TTAC, was that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed a core of talented, inspired and passionate writers to fill in the many gaps in my automotive understanding. And I literally could not ask for a better core of editors than Jack, Murilee, Steve, Sajeev and Michael. Seriously, I’ve given the topic much thought, and there’s literally no team of automotive writers with the same mix of talent, perspective, dedication, passion and diversity. These guys are my dream team. I know it hasn’t always been easy for us to pull together as a team… after all, there’s enough passion and diversity of perspective in this group to make personality clashes inevitable. But deep mutual respect inevitably carries us through, and I would always rather we fight like dogs because we’re too passionate than harmoniously churn out mediocre, uninspired pap.

Speaking of which, I feel an immense sense of gratitude to the readers and commenters who have stuck with (or even left and come back to) TTAC since I took over. Looking back at your comments from two years ago, I see as much nervousness in your comments as I see support for TTAC’s unproven new editor… and that nervousness was well-founded. In many ways, TTAC was and is lightning in a bottle, and I could have very easily fucked the entire thing up. To those of you who uncritically supported me through the entire thing, thank you for your confidence. To those of you who lacked confidence but still gave me the chance to prove myself, and to prove that this site is bigger than any one person, a double shot of thanks. I would not be where I am today without your willingness to keep me and my writers honest, every day and on every story. And none of us would be here at all if your visits and occasional ad-click-throughs didn’t keep the lights on.

I could go on and on with the thanks… certainly VerticalScope deserves thanks for allowing us to keep our independence while paying our bills, and the Automakers deserve thanks for giving increasing access to the brand that can only shoot straight. Also, TTAC’s occasional contributors who pepper our regular content with their flashes of insight and lively prose, are the seasoning that make TTAC such a consistently delicious read. But instead of waffling on, I’ll just shut up and get back to work. After all, TTAC isn’t about basking in glory and good vibes… it’s about keeping your head down, keeping your mind sharp, and never forgetting that readers always deserve better than they’re getting. I figure if I stick to that formula, we’ll be back here celebrating another year before you know it.

I can’t wait…

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Catch The Wheels Events Radio Hour with Steve Lang & Jack Baruth at 7PM Eastern Thu, 15 Sep 2011 19:28:05 +0000

TTAC’s own Steve Lang writes:

Thanks to the TTAC faithful, we will now begin airing regular shows every Thursday at 7:00 PM EST at this Internet site. Today’s guest will be none other than Jack Baruth. What we’ll talk about… who knows? That’s where you come in. Let us know what you would like for us to cover and we’ll be happy to bring it up.

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Catch TTAC’s Steve Lang On The “Wheels Events Radio Hour,” At 7PM Eastern Thu, 01 Sep 2011 21:22:02 +0000

TTAC’s own Steve Lang writes:

I will be filling for a couple of good friends at a radio show this evening. The ‘Wheels Events Radio Hour’  will be broadcast live at 7:00 P.M. Eastern time at this Internet site. We will be covering upcoming events with the SCCA along with my own miscellaneous ramblings about cars and the auto auction world. Who knows? I may even try to do some bid calling if they give me something to sell.

Sadly, while Steve’s on the air I’ll be busy gawking at a ’37 Hispano-Suiza, Jag XK-SS, Bugatti Atlante and the other ridiculous rides that make up the “Allure of The Automobile” Exhibit with my old man. So why don’t you tune in for me?

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American Journalism Review Condemns Car Review Standards, Applauds TTAC Wed, 31 Aug 2011 23:09:16 +0000
Please excuse the self-congratulation, but little breakthroughs like this are a big deal for a site like TTAC. The American Journalism Review has a fantastic piece by Frank Greve on the murky and corrupted world of professional car reviewing, which is well encapsulated in the piece’s subtitle

The world of car reviewing is replete with expensive perks and fantasy vehicles. Consumer advocates need not apply.

And after running through the litany of corruptions endemic in the system, Greve concludes:

Web sites like Jalopnik and The Truth About Cars deliver more independent, aggressive and timely coverage for car enthusiasts than traditional car magazines like Motor Trend.

With all due respect to MT (which is but one of many), that sounds like the truth to me. As does Greve’s description of how press cars are allotted (by the likelihood of a positive review). And for one of his examples of the system at its worst, Greve describe an incident involving TTAC’s own Jack Baruth and the aftermath of his no-holds-barred review of the Porsche Panamera.

After describing the fawning reviews for the Porsche Panamera produced by sites like Autobytel and New Car Test Drive, the AJR piece continues

One freelance reviewer sang off key, however: Jack Baruth, a racer of Porsche 911s, and “a known malcontent” by his own admission. Baruth crashed a Panamera event for reviewers at the Road America track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and reached a damning-by-faint-praise conclusion. “More fun to drive than any other four-door sedan,” Baruth declared in a five-minute video for LeftLane But the Panamera “couldn’t be any less like a 911,” he added. Although Baruth, a Web reviewer popular for his audacity, had previously gotten along with Porsche publicists, he’s been a nonperson with the automaker ever since.

Fong says there was nothing personal about Baruth’s exile. “One of the key questions we ask is whether a reviewer writes for a demographic that can afford a Porsche,” he says.

Baruth draws a different lesson from the experience: “Carmakers can make you noncompetitive,” he says.

Well, Mr Fong, as someone with access to TTAC’s Google Ad Planner data, let me be the first to inform you that 50% of TTAC’s readership makes $75,000 or more per year (congrats, folks!). 20% make $100k or more. So what do you say Mr Fong, do we get to review new Porsches now… or are you still as afraid of editorial independence as the AJR makes you out to be? And before you answer, remember this: with every piece like this, the walls of OEM control over editorial independence crumble a little more… and the sooner they fall down, the better.

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Matt Farah And “The Car Show” Salute TTAC Sat, 27 Aug 2011 14:32:19 +0000

Matt Farah may be the bigshot star of Speed’s The Car Show, but he got his start on the web, running a little site called The Smoking Tire. And since he’s clawed his way up from the internet’s hurly-burly, he knows how web promotion works: you check out my stuff, I’ll check out yours. As a longtime TTAC reader, he’s asking us personally to check out his new show, which airs each Wednesday at 10 pm on Speed. Don’t have cable? Check out The Car Show on Hulu.

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Don’t Miss TTAC’s Detroit-Area (Southfield) Meet-Up Tomorrow Wed, 24 Aug 2011 17:12:38 +0000

If things seem a little slow around here today, it’s because I’m in the Detroit area, away from the productive calm of my office sanctuary. I’m in town for quite an exciting event: tomorrow, I’ll be conducting an extended interview with the industry’s most infamous executive, “Maximum” Bob Lutz. And though I can’t extend an invite to Lutz Farm to TTAC’s Best & Brightest, I can offer the next-best thing: an exclusive post-interview debrief. If you’re going to be in the Detroit area tomorrow, hit the jump for more details. If you can’t make it to Motown, but you have a burning question for Mr Lutz that didn’t make it into the relevant thread, go ahead and leave it in the comments here.

Starting at 6:30 tomorrow evening (8/25), I’ll be at Copper Canyon Brewery in Southfield (click the link for directions). If you’re free, I encourage you to come on down, say hi and join the conversation. We’ll have a few beers, talk cars and the car business, and I’ll share some of my thoughts on my meeting with Maximum Bob. I always have a great time chatting with our Detroit-area readers and commenters, so I hope some of the usual suspects, and possibly a few new faces, stop by.

Finally, since it occurs to me that this will be the third Detroit-area TTAC meet-up, and because I know we have quite a few readers from my adopted hometown of Portland, OR, I thought I’d take this opportunity to gauge the interest in holding a PDX meet-up sometime. If you’re located near Portland and this sounds like something you’d like to do, either leave a comment or drop us a line at our comment form and we’ll take it from there!

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Read My Review Of “American Wheels Chinese Roads” At The Wall Street Journal Wed, 17 Aug 2011 16:53:44 +0000
As promised yesterday, my review of Michael Dunne’s American Wheels Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China is now live at the Wall Street Journal website [sub] as well as today’s print edition. Be sure to pick up a copy and stay tuned for TTAC’s own review of this important book, by our man in China, Bertel Schmitt.

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Housekeeping: Check Out TTAC In Tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal Tue, 16 Aug 2011 21:24:46 +0000

Believe it or not, dear readers, but every once in a while I’m able to take a break from my grueling routine here at TTAC and contribute to another publication. Not often, mind you, as I’ve written an average of four stories per day seven days per week in the three and a half years I’ve been writing for TTAC, but every now and then. Anyway, tomorrow is just such a time, as my review of American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China will be featured in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal.

The book itself is fascinating and a fantastic introduction to the Chinese auto business… and it even led me to dig into the GM-SAIC relationship, which in turn led me to this story. But if you don’t have a WSJ subscription and you can’t find a paper copy, fear not: an even more in-depth review of the book will be published here at TTAC, written by our own in-house China expert, Bertel Schmitt. So stay tuned for that, and in the meantime get your TTAC-in-the-MSM fix by checking out Davey G. Johnson’s C&D piece on a road trip in a Mercedes 6.9 that he borrowed from the infamous Doctor V8, also known as Sanjay Mehta, brother of our own Sajeev Mehta and recent Bugatti Veyron road tester for TTAC. Plus, there’s another TTAC-meets-the-big-time-media story coming down the line, so be on the look out for that. For a teensy little family blog, we sure do get around!

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More Than Wheels: The Mobility Anti-Charity Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:17:30 +0000

Americans are often quick to celebrate our unique car culture, the whole-hearted embrace of private mobility that seems to embody our independent character. But if you’ve lost your car, or were never able to afford one, you probably don’t spend much time dwelling on the feel-good benefits of our national romance with the automobile. Instead you probably tend to focus on the downsides: sprawling development and inadequate public transportation. As it turns out though, there’s a typically American response to the problem of carlessness: a non-profit founded by two former auto salesmen, which “helps consumers get the best deal on a reliable, fuel-efficient car.” But don’t call it a charity…

The New York Times explains:

More Than Wheels got its start in New Hampshire, where there is little public transportation, and residents are highly dependent upon their cars. The state’s ruggedly individualist bent also probably shaped the program, which is hardly a handout. Clients of More Than Wheels receive many services, but significantly, they pay for them. When [Tammy] Trahan first heard about More Than Wheels she needed to be screened to see if her credit could be repaired. Assured she’d be accepted into the program, she had to pay an application fee of $60. Once accepted, she enrolled in an online course in finance and mending her credit. She learned to be more financially resourceful, using Freecycle and other online resources to avoid spending. With a counselor, she looked up her credit scores and worked out a strategy to pay off her old debts. (In the meantime More Than Wheels gave her a “bridge car” — a used Honda — to drive to and from work. (She had to pay $300 a month for the car and sold the Jeep to the mechanic who had fixed it over the years for $500.) When she’d been paying off her debts for six months (other conditions include holding the same job and living in the same place) she became eligible for a car loan.

More Than Wheels is still a small organization, but only five percent of the 1,450 families they’ve helped have defaulted on loans, a number well below the industry average. Read more at the Times, or check out the More Than Wheels website to find out how you can help. If you appreciate your mobility and want to help fellow Americans help themselves obtain theirs, this sounds like on of the better options out there. [Hat Tip: David Holzman]

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Celebrate Independence With TTAC! Mon, 04 Jul 2011 17:05:24 +0000

With every holiday, I marvel at the passage of time, and at the twists and turns my path has taken here at TTAC. In reflecting on the recent past, I can’t help but feel an immense gratitude to the inscrutable workings of fate which have conspired to keep me eagerly engaged in this site’s unending quest for automotive truth. And on this, the holiday of American independence, gratitude seems to me a highly appropriate theme. One of the deeply-removed gears of destiny that has created the opportunity that is TTAC is surely this nation’s fundamental belief in public discourse and a free press, the constitutionally and culturally enshrined belief that the open exchange of ideas can make life, and its most necessary evil, government, at least a little bit better. Even those who disagree on a fundamental level with the opinions that TTAC espouses must concede not only that we have the right to our opinions, but also that our criticisms ultimately give strength to their objects. Our founding fathers did not protect speech out of mere principle, but because they knew that free discussion is the dialectic of progress. Through what they saw as the divine power of reason, we could form more complete ideas about the world and be better equipped to take on the challenges of liberty, self-government and the free market.

Today I am not just grateful that our founding fathers created a culture which allows me to live in the world of ideas, and in pursuit of truth. I am not just grateful for legal protections of my free speech. I am not just grateful that I can serve consumers and industry alike by shining the light of discourse on the dark places of poor logic, market malfunction, and willful ignorance. Today I am most grateful that my fellow Americans continue to value their free speech enough to patronize sites like TTAC, where they may find ideas and opinions that challenge their view of the world, where these ideas are more important than advertising revenue, and where perspectives from around our shrinking globe can be compared and contrasted in an atmosphere of respect and rigor. In an era when the value of ideas and discourse seems to be losing ground to slickly-packaged distraction and ideological rigidity, it gives me faith that so many still crave the thrilling uncertainty of a tough debate, and a deep-seeded hunger for a better understanding of the world (if “only” the world of cars).

As we celebrate American independence today, I am grateful not only for this nation’s providential founding on the enduring principles of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (which I would define as being generally synonymous with the Pursuit of Understanding), but the fact that those values have endured in you, our ever-demanding, every hungry-for-knowledge readers. Let us endeavor, together, to live up to the lofty ideals the American spirit as we unflinchingly pursue the truth about cars.

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Quote Of The Day: Speaking Of Self-Congratulation Edition Mon, 06 Jun 2011 16:26:25 +0000

The best way to show you love a topic isn’t to write it a love letter but to treat it in an uncompromising manner.

Time Magazine nails the core of  TTAC’s philosophy, while naming us one of its 25 “best blogs of 2011.” Excuse us while we pat ourselves on the back…

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