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.
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.
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…
Read More >
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.
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…
Thanks in part to the help of people from TTAC, TrueDelta received a record number of responses to April’s Car Reliability Survey—over 22,000. Updated car reliability stats have been posted to the site for 559 cars, up from 534 three month ago. There are partial results for another 418. These stats include car owner experiences through the end of March 2011, making them at least eleven months ahead of other sources.
The auto media has been receiving its advance copies of Bob Lutz’s forthcoming book “Car Guys versus Bean Counters” over the last few weeks, and have been leaking some of the more provocative statements and conclusions from it. I too requested a book and tore through it over the past week, enjoying Lutz’s direct voice and keen insights into his time at General Motors… as well as the attention-grabbing, politically-charged statements that the rest of the media seems so fixated upon. The bad news is that I won’t be able to write a full review until we get closer to its mid-June launch date, but the good news is that our forbearance has been rewarded: despite sideswiping yours truly in one passage, a brief but rewarding email conversation has generated more mutual respect, and Mr Lutz has agreed (in principle) to a TTAC interview to accompany our review at the time of the book’s release. Sometimes observing an embargo is worth it.
But fear not: just because the promise of an interview with one of the most influential figures in the industry has us delaying our review for another month or so, we’ve got more Lutz-related material with which to build up to what I expect to be a watershed interview for TTAC. Next week I’ll be publishing a review of Mr Maximum’s previous book “Guts,” and to kick of the coming months of Lutzmania, we’ve got a very special contest that is sure to stump even TTAC’s most well-versed Best and Brightest.
You’ve probably noticed by now that things haven’t been quite up to speed here at TTAC, as both Bertel and myself are here in Detroit to meet with a few OEMs as well as our corporate overlords (who are actually quite nice people, as corporate overlords go) on the northern side of the border. Oh yes, and we’re making one other acquaintance: each other. Though Bertel and I have worked together for getting on three years now, and he’s been my right-hand man since I took over the reigns here at TTAC, we’ve never actually met in person until now. Needless to say, we’ve had a lot to catch up on, and frankly picking through the post-New York and Shanghai auto show media dead zone is nowhere near as interesting as being regaled with Bertel’s “too good for publication” tales.
The good news: if you’re in the Detroit area tomorrow, you need not wait as long as I did to meet TTAC’s managing editor, as both Bertel and myself will be taking up positions at the Detroit Beer Company (downtown Detroit, directions at the link) tomorrow (Wednesday, April 27th) starting around 7PM, and you are all invited to come down, sip a beer, grab a bite and talk cars. We’ll be hot off TTAC’s first-ever visit to the RenCen, and if the past is an indicator, it could be another three years before TTAC’s Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor are in the same place at the same time again. So drop your mid-week plans, and come down and say hello to your friendly, not-so-local car bloggers. After all, we’re anxious to meet you, the readers who make TTAC possible… and one of the most vibrant auto-oriented communities on the web.
When GM pulled out of its Fremont, CA NUMMI joint venture with Toyota during its bankruptcy-bailout, the UAW took the opportunity to bash the Japanese automaker, protesting its dealers based on the false accusation that it, rather than GM, had killed NUMMI. But in fact, despite suffering from overcapacity in the US, Toyota was anxious to keep NUMMI open, and according to interviews with Toyota executives that went into the book “Toyota Under Fire,” Toyota offered something to GM as incentive to keep the plant open. At the time, speculation ran rampant that Toyota offered to rebadge the Toyota Prius for GM, but that didn’t happen. Instead Toyota offered GM something else… and we want you to guess what.
Here’s how the contest works: surf over to TTAC’s Facebook page, find the wall post titled “TTAC Contest: What Did Toyota Offer GM?” and add your guess to the comments section there. The first person to post the correct answer will be contacted for their address, and we will send you a special prize: a Chevrolet Volt-branded pen that was used (briefly) by TTAC Editor-in-Chief to take notes at the Volt’s press launch. You know you want it… now go post your answer on Facebook!
Plenty of things have happened since I began writing for The Truth About Cars that I would never have been able to predict, but perhaps one of the happiest surprises came when Timothy Ogden contacted me for an interview that would go into a book on Toyota’s recent recall scandal. That book, Toyota Under Fire, is now complete, and it references work published here at TTAC as well as interviews with myself and Bertel Schmitt. Not only does the book admirably document the media-fueled scandal, but it also contains profound insights into Toyota’s response to the recall challenge as well as Toyota’s efforts to respond to the economic downturn of 2008-2009. A review will be posted first thing tomorrow, and at 1 PM Eastern Mr Ogden and his co-author Professor Jeffery Liker (author of The Toyota Way) will join us in one of our popular author livechats, in which he will answer your questions about Toyota, its recent challenges, and the culture that helped propel it through its darkest hours. Mark your calendars or, if you can’t make it to the livechat, just leave your questions for Mr Ogden and Professor Liker in the comments section below.
Here’s some food for thought: if you “liked” TTAC on Facebook, your mind would already be blown by this magical tale of Panther Love. Seriously, if I didn’t “like” TTAC myself, I might never have seen it [A tip of the hat to Sajeev and Alex Nunez]. So watch the whole thing, savor the chill that will run up your spine, and then go “like” TTAC on Facebook for a steady drip of more awesomely entertaining detritus from TTAC’s internet adventures.
It has come to our attention that another car blog which will remain nameless has reported that Murilee Martin will be leaving TTAC to work for High Gear Media’s Motor Authority blog. Though Murilee will be writing one post per week for MA, his/her excellent contributions at TTAC will continue unabated (the report in question has since been corrected).
In fact, I am looking forward to meeting the legendary Ms Martin in person for the first time at this weekend’s Sears Pointless edition of the 24 Hours of LeMons. Fans of TTAC and Ms Martin located in the San Francisco Bay Area are encouraged to come down to Infineon Raceway to check out the sights, sounds and yes, even the smells of LeMons racing, as well as to meet TTAC’s Editor-in-Chief and Senior Junkyard Editor in person. Hope to see you there!
Almost exactly three years and one week ago, my dad, Paul Niedermeyer called me up and told me there was an opening for a freelancer at TTAC’s then-new news blog. Little did I know at the time that just a few years later, so much would have changed. In fact, if someone had told me at the time that in three years I would be editing TTAC and that my dad would have moved onto his own site, I might not have taken the job. After all, if it weren’t for him I might not even be interested in cars, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing about them professionally.
Needless to say, there have been some twists and turns along the way… but sharing a profession with your dad is too deeply rewarding a privilege to simply come easily. His decision to leave TTAC was a tough for me to accept at first, until I realized that TTAC’s loss was the internet’s gain. We may have lost a valued contributor, but the autoblogosphere gained a new destination: curbsideclassic.com.
For legal reasons, you can still find an archive of Paul’s TTAC-era Curbside Classics here, but be sure to surf over to his new site for his latest additions to a body of work that is, without a doubt, one of the best sources of automotive history and nostalgia on the web.
TTAC’s march towards media domination continues, as Bertel Schmitt’s excellent piece on Toyota’s factory of the future has been picked up for syndication by Fortune Magazine online. Read it here, read it there… just read it!
One of TTAC’s headlines yesterday asked a provocative question: Does Speed Save? The question came from a “study” by High Road Automotive Research, which posited a common-sense thesis: higher speeds inspire higher reaction times, theoretically keeping drivers safer. The unique approach to the relationship between speed and safety is what caught our eye… but what we should have been looking at were the numerous clues hidden in the report that show the whole thing was a big joke. The Sydney Morning Herald reports High Road isn’t an actual group, and that
The paper – penned by a bogus research team including authors Jeremy James, Clark Hammond and Richard Mayson – suggests that encouraging speeding on our roads makes for better drivers.
Going back through the report is more than a little embarrassing. The report acknowledges the support of researchers with names like
Mr. Brian Vitara, Mr. Gary Benz, Mr. Garuda Matraman, Mr. Grant Dodge, Mr. Gary Alpha and Professor James Romeo
Oy vey. Our apologies to our readers for presenting the “report” as at all legitimate (at least we weren’t the only ones), and raspberries to the jokesters behind High Road (Top Gear Australia denies involvement). Thanks to commenter Kiwi_Mark_In_Aussie for bringing the spoof to our attention.