The Truth About Cars » embargoes The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +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 » embargoes Renault Resumes Supply Shipments To Iranian Production Lines Thu, 30 Jan 2014 17:30:16 +0000 Iran Khodro Renault Production Line

After a six-month self-imposed hiatus, Renault has begun shipping “a very low volume” of parts overland to Iran for vehicle assembly.

According to Automotive News, over the past 10 days, parts for the Renault Tondar — the variant of the Dacia Logan built and sold by Iran Khodro — have made their way to Iranian production lines overland from Romania upon temporary easing of sanctions against the Iranian government for their nuclear ambitions. The lifting of sanctions is currently expected to last six months after Tehran pledged to freeze key components of their nuclear program, with talks due next month to work out a permanent deal to wind down sanctions in exchange for curbs in Iran’s aforementioned program.

For Renault and their rivals in Peugeot/PSA, the six-month window is crucial in rebuilding their relationships with their partners in Iran Khodro and Pars Khodro, as well as regaining their foothold on the Persian auto market before more players — such as General Motors — enter the room.

According to Renault’s Asia-Pacific boss Giles Normand, the window marks an opportunity to “gradually restart the supply of parts for vehicle production as well as flow of payments,” noting that the current state of things “must be allowed to improve visibly in Iran” lest their customers feel their country has been short-changed through a lack of visible change.

Total production of vehicles in Iran peaked at 1.6 million units in 2011, the year the sanctions were imposed. Renault lost 64,500 deliveries as a result in 2013, marginally dampening global growth to 2.63 million units overall. With the possibility of 1 million to 1.5 million annual sales at stake, Renault nor PSA can afford another setback.

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Jalopnik Declares War On Embargoes — And It’s A War They Will Win Wed, 04 Dec 2013 21:17:05 +0000 embargo

In a rather terse and self-consciously matter-of-fact column released earlier today, Jalopnik’s Matt Hardigree drew a line in the sand: the website will not honor any product embargoes not related to new-car drive events and opportunities. He’s careful to point out that it’s business advantages, not ethical considerations, underlying the change in policy.

To the PR people in their metaphorical ivory towers who consider Jalopnik to be nothing but a heavily-JavaScripted sewer for mouth-breathing teenagers, bronys, unemployed Millennials living at home with their parents, and euphoric-fedora-wearing forever-alone virgins who were perma-banned from “9GAG” for failing to meet that site’s minimum IQ requirements, Mr. Hardigree’s decision probably appears to warrant no action other than taking all Gawker-domain email addresses off pre-packaged product communication. The serenity with which they will do so probably closely approximates what the last Brachiosaurus felt as he calmly chewed the first of the day’s ten thousand leaves while watching a bright flash streak across the morning sky, and for about the same reason: their ability to see the future stops at the hindbrain. In the long run, however, everybody will suffer — or almost everybody, including you.

Let’s start by considering the idea of the “embargo”. On the face of it, an auto-journalism embargo is straight-up ridiculous. A car manufacturer decides that they are going to pick a date to release new information about a car. After the date is set, the manufacturer contacts the media and provides them information in a staggered fashion so that everybody has a chance to put said information in front of their customer at about the same time.

It’s at times like these that auto-journalism’s origins — infomercial broadsheets published by manufacturers themselves — are most plainly apparent. In the case of the Mustang, Ford decided that AutoWeek would be “first” and that other sources would follow. This amounts to a direct financial subsidy to AutoWeek, who would theoretically see a substantial rise in circulation with an exclusive new Mustang on the cover. Think about that for a moment. Ford has some power here that can be measured in dollars. If Ford would agree to give exclusive Mustang photos to my personal website, I could look forward to a million-plus hits on that website — and even at ten bucks per thousand hits on the advertising, that would be enough to buy myself something nice.

The new-Mustang pie is big enough to cut into a few different pieces, so other news sources, such as TIME, were invited to participate as well. Had everybody played nice, come New Mustang Day you would have been surrounded by images of the car. It would amount to near-total saturation, reaching nearly everybody who is even dimly interested in automobiles. And if everything had gone properly, the rising tide would have lifted all boats according to Ford’s desires. Insofar as most people can think in a six-month or one-year timeframe, even people who write about cars for a living, it’s safe to assume that a desire to get a starring role in the Mustang review has been on the minds of many people in the business for a while now. Note, for example, that TTAC didn’t receive any embargoed Mustang information ahead of time. We’ll be attending tomorrow’s global reveal meeting in Dearborn, however.

All of this worked perfectly well for decades, until — you guessed it, the World Wide Web. We now live in an era where photos taken at auto shows can be instantly uploaded to websites within minutes, or even seconds with the new Wi-Fi SD cards. (Ironically, the first time I met Mr. Hardigree he was running Compact Flash cards between some rather nonplussed freelance photographers and Ray Wert’s press-room staff at the Detroit Auto Show. He’s always been ahead of the curve, I suppose.) It’s now common for an embargo to be broken on the Web, followed by a flood of reposts and links and whatnot as everybody works at top speed to maximize the clicks before they dry up.

As Mr. Hardigree rather astutely notes in his article, the mechanism of the embargo means that Jalopnik and TTAC are free to publish images of the AutoWeek front cover, even as AutoWeek themselves are unable to do so because they have a signed agreement with Ford explicitly disallowing that behavior. The big bucks that AW was supposed to have made off the embargo will be made elsewhere.

Meanwhile, TIME appears to have completely disregarded the embargo. Presumably, they are unfamiliar with the idea of holding “news” until the subject feels they are ready to have the news printed. Not that TIME is above all sorts of idiocy peculiar to their own brand of “journalism”, but I digress. The bottom line is that the people who played by the rules in the embargo will not benefit.

Which, in the long run, removes any reason to participate in embargoes. As much as AutoWeek doesn’t want to get their news from Matt Hardigree, they like watching him run photos of their own magazine that they, in turn, are unable to publish even less. Better to have a situation where everybody grabs the news at the same time and publishes it as quickly as they can.

And that’s where Mr. Hardigree and Jalopnik come in. Nobody does immediate news like Gawker does. They’re as ruthlessly optimized for that particularly reductionist purpose as a Great White shark. When everybody is free to publish immediately, then the organization that operates with the lowest drag wins. The end of the embargo era will be the Last Trump that signifies the complete ascendancy of the Web over the print rag in the automotive-enthusiast world.

From an ethical perspective, this is brilliant. It will mean the end of the cozy relationships, although Mr. Hardigree’s note that he will respect new-car drive embargoes shows that he won’t go any further in pursuit of transparency than the end of a road paved with buttered bread. It will level the playing field between the Big Guys and the Little Guys, which is a good thing. It will remove the manufacturers’ ability to dangle something ahead of the magazines that looks less like a carrot and more like an actual pinata full of cash. Let’s welcome our new insect overlords, shall we?

Yet you, the reader, will find the era of fast-news only slightly more satisfying than a shopping-mall food court. It means that from now until the end of time you’ll get your information about cars filtered through some intern who has limited education, limited talent, limited resources, and a twenty-minute time limit to get it done — with fifteen minutes being nice if you can do it, Jeremy, you know we value the fastest, most hyperbolic writers here at BigBlogCorp. Ironically, the opening sentence of the Jalopnik article bears the unmissable signs of first-draft writing. Get it done, get it out, get it over with.

Faced with the end of their ability to be anything but last to the party, I’m hoping that the magazines will choose being best as an alternative. That they (hey! we! have I mentioned that I write occasionally for the most awesome magazine this side of Black Tail?) will elevate the craftsmanship, the beauty, the truth of what is presented to you on the printed page. That we will all look forward to each issue of our chosen airline companion with the proverbial bated breath, knowing that what we’re about to read will be more carefully composed and thoroughly researched than anything we ever read on the front page of any blog, including this one.

It’s a tough mission, and not everybody will come back from it — but to be shot down in the pursuit of excellence is worthy of admiration itself, and surely the view from one’s parachute, of the filthy masses screaming and Spiderman-picture-posting and “shitposting” all over each other, will have a grisly beauty all its own.

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Titillating Embargoes, And How Our Youth Is Led Astray By Manipulative Automakers Wed, 16 Jan 2013 10:25:39 +0000

Investigative reporter

We have a new car show season. With it come new car releases, and with them comes a contagion that is as tiring and headache-inducing as a Cobo Hall flu on top of an after party hangover. The disease goes by the name of embargo, and it comes with  the embargo breach as a secondary infection.

In case you have studied Pol.Sci. instead of HTML, you might be thinking that we are talking about real embargoes, such as those of Iran or Cuba. We don’t. In our biz, an embargo is when an OEM sends a blog a picture or a story, and then asks not to “print” it until later. If you think that the outcome is both predictable and inevitable, then you are absolutely correct. We could put the matter right to sleep without wasting (ha!) precious HTML column inches, would the new car season not also be marked by an excited chattering, twittering, OMG+1000ering over busted embargoes in what goes as the automotive media these days.

So let’s do what we rarely do, let’s talk about embargoes.

Our embargo

In the funky world of car blogs, embargoes are treated with the fascination otherwise reserved for an older sister’s first period, for our first pubic hair, or, OMG!, stained linen. Likewise, a broken embargo is treated with the enthrallment, or faux outrage caused by school buddies who purportedly went to “third base” without going blind.

Whenever an OEM tells me that “kids have lost their interest in car”, I say: “Wrong, look at Jalopnik.” Jalopnik is the epicenter of youthful eruptions caused by titillating embargoes.  Jalopnik even has a special section for “Embargo News, Videos, Reviews and Gossip.” Currently,  the section crucifies Cycle World (yes, Cycle World) for blowing an embargo.  I was unable to find out which one. I had to withstand attempts of the Jalopnik section to lure me into other Gawker assets that promise me “Orgasm-Free Casual Sex.”  No thanks. In my advanced age, one is grateful for any orgasm one can achieve during casual sex.  (Speaking of age, things got a little better at Jalopnik after Ray Wert was replaced by a more youthful looking, but far more mature Matt Hardigree. As mature men, they talk less, and do it more.)

However, I am looking forward to the promised reviews of embargoes. Car reviews: Tired. Embargo reviews: Wired. Can we hope for five star embargoes? Three thumbs down for halfhearted embargo breaches? A “Meh” for indignant reports of embargo breaches, illustrated with the embargoed picture?  +1000 for the intrepid reporter who can’t be cowed by the OEM machine, and who hits “Publish” a day before he is allowed to? Best upskirt picture during car reveals? Endless opportunities for a blogging biz that always should be on the look-out for distinction at the lowest cost.

Bad boys they are, Jalopnik is a bad influence on other adolescent automotive authors, who try to be a Jalop, even when writing for a site that makes its money by selling contact data of car buyers to car-dealing sharks. Oh, the excitement when they hold their first embargoed picture in their shaking hands! The temptation to jerk off to it usually overcomes the best of them. Kimberly-Clark, always on the lookout for new niches for its tissues, should look into the matter. EmbarGoezAwayz® perhaps?  I mean, I invented Sneezies® for them in the 80s, why not continue on the road to success? You know where to find me, I’m sure.

Their embargo

With that rant off my chest, here the Truth About Embargoes.

What is an embargo? In real life, an embargo is close to a blockade, and some say it’s an act of war. If we stop Iranian oil, it’s God’s work. If the Arabs stop Arabian oil, it’s an outrage. In the unreal life of the motor media, an embargo is a request not to publish something before a set date. Blogs know how to design, make, market and even recycle cars, why should they listen to silly pleas to delay their orgasms until a later date?

How binding is an embargo? It is not binding at all. Usually, an embargo is an appeal to professional courtesy. Lack of  which renders the matter void.

What happens after a breach? Nothing, except for the excited chattering and twittering that provides added media exposure. In most serious cases, the sanction may be that the reporter is not invited back.  This rarely happens, and only with the most stringent types of embargoes as listed below.

What is the sense of embargoes? Purportedly, it is to give journalists time to get their heads and printing machines around a topic. In reality, an embargo acts as a timer that sets off a cluster bomb strike of stories, timed just right for maximum impact for the OEM, while delivering useless crapitation on the part of the individual news outlet. An embargo usually contravenes the interest of the publication, and the stage is set for trouble.

Embargo consequences

Types of embargoes

The buff-book embargo: This is a throwback to the times when pictures of rare pre-production models were shot with large format cameras, on (OMG!) film, where color seps were made, and where cylinders needed etching. This took at least a month, and led to the strange custom, still observed on occasion, that reporters congregate in a room a month before the launch, where they are presented with a top-secret car, and a piece of paper on which they have to promise that they won’t say anything until the embargo lifts. Unless the paper is a hard and fast Non Disclosure Agreement, in which clear sanctions, such as loss of your firstborn, or $250,000 for each breach, are agreed upon, that paper only has symbolic value. The buff books stick to the embargo, because they want to be invited back, and they need the month anyway. They also do on-line, and a day after the meeting, renders appear that come close to the actual car. Those, wink-wink, do not count as a breach of embargo. I observe the buff-book embargo, even if it leads to a conversation like this one: “As you know, no photography allowed today, Mr. Schmitt.”  “I know.” “Where is your camera?” “At home, you told me not to bring one.” “Oh. You brought your phone, did you?” “Sure.” “Good. Keep it in your pocket.” “Sure thing.” Wink. Wink.

The individual embargo: Trusted reporters sometimes receive individual access to car, inside information, executives, production sites etc. before the launch, with the understanding that the story is held back until the launch. This usually is in form of a handshake agreement, sometimes on a piece of paper. This embargo is rarely breached, because it gives reporter and publication a better story, and a leg up on the riff-raff that has to quote from the press release. I observe the individual embargo. I am old-fashioned and I believe in handshakes.

Ignore it: Common (market) embargo of today

The common embargo: Sometimes, press releases, even those published on publicly accessible websites, or sent out via mass emails have “Embargoed until ….” on them. This is regarded as effective as appeals for chastity until marriage, and it is as commonly ignored. When I was young, pubescent kids used to get thrilled about chastity and we tried to get our hands and more as deep into other pants as possible. These days, kids excitedly twitter and chatter about (OMG!) breaches of embargo.  I ignore this kind of embargo, I would laugh at complaints and never receive any.

The come-on embargo: The industry, fascinated with the social media thing, has caught on to the stirring in loins and keyboards caused by a titillating embargo. As the slow reveal loses its efficacy, nothing punches better through the clutter of pre-car-show press releases than a big “EMBARGOED UNTIL …” on the email. In a world where real tits have given way to titillations, this assures attention, just like adolescent sex was exciting, because it was verboten. High fives in the PR departments of the OEMs are triggered by the secondary explosions in blogs that feign outrage over embargo breaches by colleagues who dared to go to third base first (“AutoWeek’s Phil Floraday Breaks Embargo On Buick Enclave!!!” OMG!)

Expect large-scale farming of these genetically modified forbidden fruit, and expect them to taste as bland as GM produce usually tastes. A blogger who gets excited, or worse, who observes the come-on embargo is a lost cause, and really should look for other employment.


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