Ever wonder exactly how the various “quick-lube” places in your city made a profit?
The price of motor oil rises and falls — mostly rises — but the pricing stays at $19.95 or $24.95 or whatever your local market will bear. As fate would have it, most of my vehicles aren’t compatible with the quick-lube business model of having some sweaty dude waving your air filter in your face and telling you that it has the Zika virus while an actual rhesus monkey cross-threads your drain plug using an impact gun. My 993, as an example, has two oil filters, while my Boxster requires a 32-step process to get to the air filters. Nor would I trust my mighty Accord V6 to somebody whose path in life hasn’t qualified them to work above ground.
Not all of us have the luxury of doing our own oil changes at home, however. You might not have the space, the tools, the ability, or the time that’s required to do it correctly yourself. That last factor is perhaps the biggest. If you’re working two McJobs to make ends meet, the Valvoline Oil Change down the street might be your only practical choice. The good news: it’s cheap. The bad news: some of that cost savings comes from another way the shop makes money on you, without you even knowing.
However, during the last few days, it’s become incredibly clear that some automotive journalists don’t have a deep (or shallow) understanding of ethics and disclosure. Even TTAC, at times, has failed to disclose the extent of the consideration offered by manufacturers during press trips.
Hey, we’ve finally found someone who believes in the Volt and Chrysler’s alleged new products. Too bad he’s from the government that owns 60 percent of GM and 15 percent of Chrysler… and he can’t explain his optimism in anything but the broadest platitudes. Did Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood properly disclose his relationship with the state-owned automakers per FCC standards? Probably not. But that’s OK, since few probably took him seriously to begin with.
I was wandering the GM Heritage Center with Jaguar designer Ian Callum (yes, a write-up of that interview is coming), when a Cadillac PR man took me aside and offered to have me flown down to Los Angeles to “check out” this new CTS Coupe. My initial reaction was surprise that the offer was made at all. My second was to explain that I couldn’t possibly accept airfare. TTAC has a strict disclosure policy, and our Best and Brightest would doubtless take a dim view of any coverage made possible by an OEM picking up an airfare tab. Especially if I actually like the car, I explained, such a disclosure would create understandable skepticism. Paying TTAC’s way will always be self-defeating. Still, I thought, LA isn’t that far. I remained tempted to make the trip on the TTAC tab, right up to the point where I realized that by “check out,” Cadillac did not mean “drive.” An invite arrived, clarifying that this was an “opportunity to see the car before the LA Show and to visit with Bryan Nesbitt, general manager of Cadillac and Clay Dean, director of design for Cadillac.” No thanks. I saw the CTS Coupe before the LA Auto Show… in a Cadillac advertisement. Thanks for the invitation, Cadillac… but TTAC needs to drive something to drag itself away from the keyboard.