The Truth About Cars » jalopnik The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +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 » jalopnik The Twingo Turns 20 Sat, 14 Dec 2013 15:15:03 +0000 ku-xlarge (2)

Our friends at Jalopnik have an interesting history on the Renault Twingo, a car that is about to celebrate its 20th birthday, and has arguably entered the “small car hall of fame” alongside cars like the Mini and the Volkswagen Golf. You can read about its origins as a Polish people’s car and see how its strayed further and further away from the ideal. The next Twingo is slated to share a platform with the upcoming Smart Fortwo replacement, and that means a rear-engine, rear drive layout.

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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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Gawker Wants The Detroit News To Stick To The Real Journalism Mon, 06 May 2013 18:57:38 +0000 Night coming tenderly, and you know the rest. Picture courtesy LifeChoice.

When the Detroit News decided to make a click-tastic slideshow of The 50 Most Beautiful WAGS In Sports, the blogosphere responded with some WAGging of its own — mostly of tongues. Nearly everybody agreed that there was something deeply saddening and pathetic about the fact that a semi-respected Old News bastion is now using Google Image Search and one-click-per-picture tactics to puff up the numbers. Some of the strongest criticism, however, came from a most unlikely source.

In a piece entitled Oh God The Detroit News Is Trying To Be Buzzfeed Now, Contributor Aaron Foley opines that

But a countdown, click-through list of most beautiful wives and girlfriends of athletes? NO. Really? It shouldn’t have come to this. I get that Buzzfeed is popular because they have lists and Complex always does clicky slideshow shit like this, but they have that lane. Don’t merge into that lane. It’s their lane. And frankly, it works for them.

This all sounds perfectly reasonable, and you’re likely to nod your head along with it, until you realize that Mr. Foley is writing for a blog that ran a picture of Steve McQueen’s penis.

A picture.

Of Steve McQueen’s.


The stage is being set for an epic showdown between old media and new media, for sure, but it’s not going to pan out quite the way the script-writers at Gawker et al planned it. Some time ago, in a piece about a similar episode of Jalopnik news-ethics outrage, I wrote that

It’s the Connery-in-The-Untouchables approach. They put a picture of a Ferrari on the cover? You put a picture of a crashed Ferrari on the website. They declare the Chevy Sonic to be the best car ever? You do the same, plus run a story on a guy driving an electric scooter on the freeway.

Now, let me show you Jack’s Foolproof Chart Of What Young Male Readers Like, from Least to Most:

Detailed reliability data
Sophisticated, knowledgeable automotive testing
Fun stories about stuff
Stories where something blows up
Pictures of cool stuff
Pictures of stuff blowing up
An article about girls doing slutty things
Mugshots of girls who have done slutty things
A girl talking about having the “back of her eyeballs” knocked out by some dude raw-doggin’ her in a hallway
A picture of the above
A video of the above
A video of the above, with two guys
A video of the above, with two guys and a dog
A video of the above, with two guys, a dog, and a tight-ass dubstep soundstrack

You get the idea, right? It’s always possible to increase viewership by moving farther down the list. Jalopnik is farther down the list than Car and Driver, but that doesn’t mean they get to cry “Hold!” at the Mugshots of girls who have done slutty things level. Somebody’s gonna take it farther.

I was right about that, but what I failed to discuss was that Jalopnik (and TTAC, and Buzzfeed, and everyone else) aren’t just under attack from new bloggers trying to out-slut or out-snark us. We’re also seeing an increasing willingness on the part of the stodgy old media to do whatever it takes to compete. Motor Trend, which prior to the year 2010 was only remembered by anyone for its earnest and tireless advocacy on behalf of the Chevrolet Citation, now operates the biggest automotive-related video channel in the world.

Think about that. The lamest, oldest, unhippest car magazine out there also runs the newest, freshest, biggest, most popular video channel. How did that happen? It’s simple: while the other car magazines and newspapers were coasting on their assets, MT worked to develop, borrow, or imitate things that the viewer wanted to see. They didn’t depend on the name or the pre-existing reader base. Instead, they used that reader base as a launch platform, a list of potential evangelicals who, if they were presented with content they enjoyed, would spread the word to others.

If you think that kind of approach — the reader-base-as-seed-capital approach — only works for a YouTube channel, you’re wrong. Mark my words: Any day now, somebody at Car and Driver is going to decide to attack the Web at full speed. They’ll put the whole magazine on there in expanded format. They’ll create a top-notch user comment system and update it on Internet time. They’ll leverage their million-plus readers to get ten-million-plus Web readers. They’ll decide to do to Jalopnik, and to TTAC, what Jalopnik did to them five years ago.

If they do so, they will succeed. If. If they have the will, the guts, and the intelligence to see it through. If they treat it like they are a start-up that happens to be lucky enough to have two million clients banging on the door. If they apply the same kind of original thinking that led to the creation of the original Car and Driver to the creation of the next one. The phoenix that rises from those particular ashes won’t look much like the current magazine does, any more than MT‘s YouTube channel looks like a four-color Chevrolet Citation advertorial, but it will succeed. Mark my words.

Aaron Foley is right. The Detroit News can’t, and shouldn’t, try to compete with Buzzfeed by running the occasional poorly-thought-out slideshow. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t eat a lot of lunches by changing direction before circumstances force them to abandon ship. Ooh. Abandon ship. I like that phrase. Let’s roll with it. In that context, Mr. Foley’s column shouldn’t be seen as sour grapes or misguided whining. It should be seen as a warning shot across the bow. A warning shot that the Detroit News would do well to respond to, not by turning away, but by firing a full broadside.

Correction: Aaron Foley is a contributor, not the Detroit Editor as previously mentioned. -Ed.

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New: TTAC Works For Jalopnik. (Big Announcement On Monday. Or Tuesday) Sun, 24 Feb 2013 18:18:11 +0000

Invitation here

Jalopnik is making a big do about “NISSAN’S NISMO IS PLANNING A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT ON MONDAY.” And the Jalops wonder: “What could it be?” It might be the start of a large multinational co-operative project between Jalopnik and TTAC. Or not.

All I know is that Nismo will show off its new headquarters in Shin-Koyasu, near Yokohama. Which happens to be in the same complex where the GT-R’s engine is being built. Which reminds me that I still have to write up THAT story. With Carlos Ghosn being there, it stands to reason that more than a redone building will be announced. All I heard is that Nissan may be slowly turning NISMO into a standalone performance brand. And no, the GT-R powered Juke won’t be there. Or so I heard.

Jalopnik asks whether NISMO will “announce they’re going to make bicycles instead of cars. Or ridiculously fast motorized scooters for old people. Or little GT-R shaped drones for the military. Any guesses?”

I guess, the simplest way to find out is to go there. With Shin-Koyasu a 30 minute hop from where I am at the moment, I will be there on Tuesday at 10am. Interested in some pool coverage, Jalopnik? The worst that can happen is that I get another good series of Carlos Ghosn waving his arms.

PS: What’s with Monday and Tuesday? Jalopnik found out that when it’s Tuesday in Japan,  it’s ”Monday for us Americans.” Amazing, no?

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Fisker Flambe At New Jersey Port Damages 16 Karmas Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:50:47 +0000

16 Fisker Karmas waiting at a New Jersey port caught fire, with all 16 cars burning to the ground.

Photos of the aftermath were obtained by Jalopnik, which also obtained this statement from Fisker

“It was reported today that several Fisker Karmas were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Superstorm Sandy.  We can report that there were no injuries and none of the cars were being charged at the time.

We have confidence in the Fisker Karma and safety is our primary concern.  While we intend to find the cause as quickly as possible, storm damage has restricted access to the port. 

We will issue a further statement once the root cause has been determined.”

Anyone with a science background (or anyone that got better than a C in Chemistry…): how do the vehicles go up in flames after being submerged in sea water. Anyone? Buller?

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Sandy Drowns Jalopnik, Site Advocates Wife Swapping While Down Tue, 30 Oct 2012 17:05:13 +0000

One of the many victims of Sandy: Jalopnik. Along with the other servers of the Gawker network, Jalopnik joined the fate of some ten thousand websites served by 150 data centers on the East Coast that were drowned out by the ferocious storm. Even after going down, the site’s problems did not end.

We wish our colleagues at Jalopnik all the best and a speedy comeback. Also, we recommend to hunt down whoever changed Jalopnik’s redirect from to, a site that offers “wife swapping”, and “colon cleansing” along with more traditional fare such as “body kits” and “Cadillac Escalade.”

According to the New York Times, the Gawker sites share a common Internet service provider, Datagram, housed in the financial district in Lower Manhattan, which lost power on Monday evening.  TTAC’s servers are in a secure location in Canada, and its editors are dispersed over multiple continents.

Update: The hijack of Jalopnik’s emergency site appears to be fixed.  Jalopnik now redirects to the proper ersatz-Jalopnik page that sports familiar robust language like “The asshole spreading false info on Twitter revealed.”


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Enough About The Tesla Model S And The Manufactured Controversy Over Reviews Mon, 09 Jul 2012 16:10:56 +0000

Summer is always a slow time in the industry, so what better way to boost traffic than to manufacture a controversy out of thin air about a “third rail” topic like electric cars?

The past week or two has seen Jalopnik take reviewers and Tesla to task over the short drive times offered during the Tesla Model S launch. One of the biggest criticisms leveled at Tesla was that drive times only worked out to around 10 minutes, which, Jalopnik rightly claimed, is not enough time to properly form a driving impression.

What they left out was that press drives, on the whole, aren’t a great place to form real impressions of a car, full stop – but Jalopnik and other outlets do it anyways. This is the precise reason why we offer Take Twos (and sometimes, additional reviews beyond that). I was on the same Hyundai launch as Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky, where we reviewed the Elantra GT, Veloster Turbo and Elantra Coupe. Drive times were relatively short (a couple hours, perhaps) on roads that were carefully selected to show off the car’s strong points and minimize its weaknesses. The Coupe was driven only on lazy, mostly straight highways, while the Veloster Turbo and Elantra GT were flogged on the kinds of roads that driving enthusiasts can only dream about. That did’t stop Jalopnik from giving them a “Jalopnik number”, some kind of definitive, transcendent quantification of a vehicle that will forever be enshrined in the annals of automotive history.

Our writers are spread out across the globe (literally), and the diversity of opinions is enhanced by the lack of proximity. A launch in California or Andalusia may be a great place to test out a new droptop sports car; but how will it hold up on the bombed out roads of Detroit, where Michael Karesh lives? Will a hybrid car really provide the kind of fuel efficiency it claims? Let Alex Dykes take it out for a day of stop and go driving in San Francisco. And of course, we have our very own driving ace who needs no introduction.

When I heard about the Model S launch, I sent an inquiry to Tesla Toronto. They gave me the Roadster for a day back in 2010, with the only stipulation being “bring it back before the battery is drained”. Jack did a review of the Roadster for Left Lane News with no restrictions on time or distance. Tesla Toronto’s own Model S demo wouldn’t even be available until August, which is when multi-day tests of the car should be available. So while we weren’t invited to the ultra-exclusive first drive party, we’ll probably get a proper, unrestricted review of the car.

Jalopnik has taken to calling out Dan Neil of the Wall Street Journal, for his positive review of the Model S. Neil is an easy target; not only is he popular, a Pultizer Prize winner and a household name (if there is such a thing in this business) but he also comes across as a pompous, self-abosrbed narcissist, which makes it easy to feel schadenfreude when bad things happen to him. Thankfully, Neil is smart enough to know that he’s having his credibility attacked by an outlet that will literally report on anything in the blind pursuit of traffic numbers. Neil did a masterful job of eviscerating the weak criticism against him, and the responses by the folks at Jalopnik are utterly submissive – leaving no doubt that if the WSJ came calling for any of them, they would all be happy to jump ship and enjoy the kind of lifestyle, adoration and TV deals that come from writing for such an institution and the receipt of a Pulitzer Prize. Like an invite to drive the Tesla Model S.

Couched in all the righteous indignation about journalistic integrity and mis-use of taxpayer dollars is the simple fact that things are slow in the summer, and a fabricated controversy is good for business. It’s even better when it involves topics and people that are polarizing, to the point where one can project their existential angst and childhood issues on to them. So why not try to boost the numbers than by going after a couple of popular, controversial figures, replete with jokes about a supposedly secret same-sex relationship, blowjobs and other mature, dignified prose that we’ve come to expect from the Gawker network (or at least, the during the Ray Wert era). This whole campaign isn’t just a big boost for traffic; it’s the Powerball jackpot. Electric cars, Elon Musk, Dan Neil, self-aggrandizing, vulgar snark. The only thing better would be if a celebrity died and something happened involving cars and female genetalia. Oh wait…

Maybe this is just about personal pride. Press drive invites are often times just a proxy for professional validation. Journalists love to compare notes on what events they got invited to, like adolescents comparing who is wearing the “right” clothing or hairstyle. It’s a frequent topic of complaining here at TTAC, when someone unqualified is invited to an event that is sure to yield a great story, and we’re left out in the cold. Car makers really do use access as a carrot and a stick in exchange for toeing the line. And when you’re more interested in the people and the events rather than the car (like we tend to be), it makes it difficult to do our jobs. Or maybe this is just another “sponsored conversation” guerilla marketing effort that’s part of Gawker’s new revenue model? I don’t know. But I am counting down the days until August.

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Mazda Courts Jalopnik Readers With Next MX-5, Gets More Than They Bargained For Mon, 04 Jun 2012 16:29:06 +0000

I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong (though I tend to be right nearly every single time without fail. So there.). When I saw that Mazda had asked Jalopnik readers for their thoughts on the next MX-5, I oscillated between sheer terror (at the prospect of reading a bunch of keyboard jockeys telling engineers how to do their jobs, i.e. every press launch) and total Schadenfreude.

The next MX-5 is more than likely “locked in” past the point of no return. Styling, engineering and powertrains are all but locked in, and not a damn thing can be done to change them, even though the next MX-5 will have to be tweaked a bit to become an Alfa Romeo. That’s a shame. Mazda might be wise to listen to some of the suggestions put up by Jalopnik’s readers.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in feeling apprehensive. Reader “tobythesandwhich” composed a brilliant satire

Well this can only end badly. Suggestions WILL Include: 
-1200lb weight 
-No safety features whatsoever. People don’t really hurt/die from car crashes. It’s a government cover up to try and control us 
-Must have at least 600hp and a turbo AND supercharger 
-Must be able to go off road and scale mountains 
-Must cost less than $5000. Because everything that costs more than that enters V6 Mustang territory 
-Must get at least 400mpg while maintaining constant aggressive driving 
-Must have pop-up headlamps, reverse opening hood, and give fuck-all about Pedestrian Safety Regulations 
-Must have an interior decked out in leather on leather on leather while having a 40000 watt stereo system that we’ll still end up bitching about because it weighs more than 2lbs 
-Must have a Manual Transmission with no less than 100 Gears. Us Jalops love to shift. And if you even consider offering an Automatic for the sake of keeping the model alive I (And the Jalopnik community) swear to god we will kidnap the families of the Designers. Then burn their houses down and fornicate their wives while wearing their slippers and robes.

Feel free to chime in Jalopnik. I know this is what you want.

In the end, most of the suggestions seem to be firmly grounded in reality, life experience and prior ownership – the kinds of things that auto journalists aren’t usually brimming with, even if they have owned a Miata or three.

Among the suggestions listed were a la carte optioning (a big yes, as anyone who has tried to order a CX-5 or Mazda3 can attest to), classic styling and enough room for a 6’2″ individual, wearing a helmet to clear the “broomstick test”. All of those, plus say, an inch more leg roof (tilt/telescoping wheel perhaps) would go along way to increasing comfort without making the car much larger or heavier.

Rather than catalog every single good idea, you might as well go and read the thread. My personal theory is that Mazda thought they could get some free publicity by “empowering” Jalopnik readers by “engaging in a conversation” about the next MX-5. Then they could promptly ignore all the suggestions, since the car was a done deal, and wait for the praise to roll in. Hopefully there’s still time for them to listen.



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I For One Welcome Jalopnik’s New Overlord Thu, 10 May 2012 20:38:20 +0000

A shake-up at Jalopnik means the most heated rivalry since Senna Vs. Prost (ok, maybe Piquet vs. Reutmann, with TTAC playing the part of the suave, petulant Brazilian) will change forever. Hopefully for the better. Or, as Jalop would put it, THIS IS OUR NEW EDITOR IN CHIEF.

We’ve been (rightly) accused of dumping on Jalopnik in the past, but we thought it would only be proper to congratulate Matt Hardigree on his promotion to Editor-In-Chief of the site. Matt may forever nip at my heels for the title of “Most Interesting Young Auto Writer…In The World“, but any injection of young blood into the business is a welcome change.

Matt, congratulations from all of us at TTAC, and may the uncivil Twitter fights continue in perpetuity.

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This Is A Blog Post About A Blog Post That Got Someone Fired (Over A Blog Post) Thu, 29 Sep 2011 07:50:32 +0000

If you saw the video above on Autoblog, accompanied by some tired prose suggesting that you summon some enthusiasm for this, the latest automotive promotion, would you think twice? You might if you knew the person who posted the story, and knew they were being paid to promote said promotion. But how does one actually get an inside look at the gritty world of automotive PR payola? How do you break through the great wall of… what’s that, Jalopnik?

Today, Autoblog writer Jeff Glucker wrote about Nissan’s Britney Spears contest. Trouble is, he’s working for the agency that’s running it.

Earlier this week, [then-Autoblog Associate Editor Jeff] Glucker sent out an e-mail solicitation to several of his contacts in the automotive website world, asking for help promoting a new campaign for the Nissan Versa:

Hey there,

I am working with third-party agency that’s assisting Nissan with a new campaign for the Versa. No, I didn’t lose my job or anything – this is just some side contracting work so I can buy a second iPad or golden shift-knob for my car.

Oh right, you just have to open your eyes.

Autoblog’s Editor-in-Chief, John Neff, quickly responded:

Autoblog’s editors were completely unaware of this improper relationship. Upon hearing these allegations, we conducted our own internal investigation into the matter and found the report to be true. Upon this discovery, we immediately terminated our relationship with Mr. Glucker and removed the article in question. We will also be reviewing Mr. Glucker’s other articles to determine if conflicts are evident.

I would praise Mr Neff’s response, except for two things: first, it was the crushingly obvious choice, and second, the reaction from commenters was decidedly ambivalent. One commenter in particular captured the cynical outlook on Autoblog’s mission, sneering

What a buzzkill, Neff. Way to go.

Like this website isn’t just a bunch of fluff pieces anyway.

And that’s the real problem. Glucker’s screw-up was spectacularly blatant, but it’s just a symptom of the larger disease. When you’re being paid peanuts to sling warmed-over press releases, when you joke about the stupidity of your own commenters, when “PR-friendly” is the name of the game, “screw-ups” like this are inevitable. And any business that relies as heavily on popular opinion as the car business does will see to it that “screw ups” like this are inevitable (preferably through an agency). We’ve seen where this rabbit hole ended up for the less-scrupulous buff books, and it ain’t pretty.

Meanwhile, what’s most chilling about all this is the Kitty Genovese effect that had to happen for the Jalopnik post to exist at all. I can understand why Glucker’s (“part-time”) employer didn’t insist on ethical behavior, and why Autoblog’s readers and editors were in the dark and/or apathetic, but what about Glucker’s “contacts in the automotive website world”? That not even one returned his email and clued him to the problems with having an online automotive marketing “part time” job while working for an online automotive media outlet should be surprising… but sadly it isn’t. A somewhat more surprising possibility is that one of these “contacts” actually ratted Glucker out to Jalopnik, rather than giving him a much-needed reality-check. The most implausible scenario of all: Glucker was stupid enough to actually send the email to a Jalopnik staffer, who was the source for the story. The problem isn’t just that Autoblog’s readers don’t seem to care much about Glucker’s sin, it’s that his “contacts,” his fellow automotive bloggers, didn’t care that he was screwing up either… unless they could use the story.

I don’t blame Jalopnik for running their story. It’s the truth, Glucker certainly screwed up badly enough to be fired, and as Hunter Thompson put it, “a man with a greed for the Truth should expect no mercy and give none.” But the conditions that create these kinds of problems aren’t going to go away unless automotive writers embrace a culture of pride, not just in themselves, but in their entire profession. A cluelessly blatant shill email like Glucker’s should elicit a brisk, collegial ethics lecture in the best case, or stinging (but private) mockery in the worst. But because emails like Glucker’s are the everyday staple of the modern “automotive journalist,” because nobody in the business likes to speak up on ethics, and because hypocrisy is rampant, his colleagues looked the other way. And they let him walk of a cliff, chasing a golden shift knob.

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Oxymoron Alert: Jalopnik Has Lost Its Mind Tue, 29 Mar 2011 15:17:55 +0000

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.

Fornicating the puppy dept.:

  • Of course the EU does not want to ban gas and diesel cars by 2050. That becomes clear to the intrepid few who venture beyond the headline. Someone may want to discourage ICE city driving 40 years from now. Manhattanite Gawkers should have noticed that their hometown had declared a war on cars decades ago.
  • Jalopnik became the victim of a badly written article in London’s Telegraph that talks in tortured grammar about a plan of “Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission.”  Mr. Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport  (that’s his correct title) and former Prime Minister of Estonia, published a white paper with the boring title “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system.” If you want the original, here it is.
  • Mr. Kallas does not and cannot ban anything. He wrote a white paper. He might as well have written an op ed piece in the New York Times. He has his job until 2014. It is a long and arduous road before anything becomes unanimously accepted by all 27 members of the EU. In the meantime, a commissioner can write all the white papers he wants.
  • The white paper does not talk about a ban. It says thatthe gradual phasing out of ‘conventionally-fuelled’ vehicles from the urban environment is a major contribution to significant reduction of oil dependence, greenhouse gas emissions and local air and noise pollution.” But there is a gotcha in the next sentence.” It will have to be complemented by the development of appropriate fuelling/charging infrastructure for new vehicles.” It’s more fluff than Obama’s plan to put a million EV’s on the road by 2015.
  • There is nothing in the white paper that calls for a ban of diesel or gas-burning vehicles in cities by 2050 through higher taxes and new rules. There is a mealy-mouthed passage that calls for “developing and deploying new and sustainable fuels and propulsion systems” in order to “halve the use of ‘conventionally-fuelled’ cars in urban transport by 2030; phase them out in cities by 2050; achieve essentially CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres by 2030.” Again: If there are no new and sustainable fuels and propulsion systems, no change. The white paper might as well have called for eternal happiness, the elimination of heart attacks and a worldwide ban of the common cold. Actually, the paper has an even nobler goal: “By 2050, move close to zero fatalities in road transport.”

Missing out on the juicy stuff dept:

We must wag a finger at Jalopnik for neglecting its usual mission of wallowing in juicy scandals. Justin Hyde must have been in an awful hurry when he cranked out the two sentences. Now, TTAC has to do the heavy lifting.

  • Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers recommended that Commissioner Kallas “goes and finds himself a space in the local mental asylum. If he wants to bring everywhere to a grinding halt and to plunge us into a new dark age, he is on the right track. We have to keep things moving. The man is off his rocker.”
  • Christopher Monckton, spokesman of the anti-EU UK Independence Party opines that “the EU must be living in an alternate reality.”
  • UK Transport Minister Norman Baker said “We will not be banning cars from city centres anymore than we will be having rectangular bananas.” With that vote against, the measure is dead.
  • Environmentalists blast the paper. Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace says: “This Commission paper blatantly passes the buck to the next generation.”  Jos Dings of the Transport&Environment group says: “This is a manifesto for inaction. The only concrete action the Commission proposes within its current mandate (2010-14) is to expand airport capacity, which will make the headline targets even harder to reach.”
  • Commenters at Jalopnik immediately created a European flag with tiny hammers and sickles. Jalopnik was derelict in its duty of informing its readership that Mr. Kallas was formerly a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and a member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. He should be comfortable as a Commissar.
  • Totally overlooked by Jalopnik: Baden-Württemberg,  that German state that Porsche, Daimler, Bosch and Gemballa Tuning call home, will be the first German state to be ruled by a Premier of the Green Party. They won by a landslide last weekend. Now that is a story worth watching.

Jeez, must we do all your work?

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Confirmed: WSJ Writes Nonsense About Toyota EDR Amnesia. Jalopnik In Same League As WSJ Fri, 16 Jul 2010 11:11:07 +0000

Welcome to amateur hour. As reported yesterday, The Wall Street Journal claimed in a story that Toyota’s “data recorders can lose their information if disconnected from the car’s battery or if the battery dies—as could happen after a crash.” Their source was “a person familiar with the situation.” Commentator Carquestions concluded that the source doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. After we wrote about it, Carquestions fingered the not so knowledgeable source as “a secretary within Media Relations at the DOT.”

Instead of talking to a secretary, the WSJ could have done what we did: Call Toyota headquarters in Tokyo. It took TMC spokesman Paul Nolasco less than 10 minutes to round up an engineer, and to confirm to TTAC that Toyota’s “EDRs use non-volatile memory.” For the non-nerds: Non-volatile memory doesn’t lose the information when the battery dies. Remove the battery from your cell phone. Put it back in. Your phonebook, your messages and pictures of questionable nature will still be there. Non-volatile memory in action.

As Carquestions also correctly points out, the U.S. code for EDRs (to come into effect in 2012) specifies that “data recorded in non-volatile memory is retained after loss of power and can be retrieved with EDR data extraction tools and methods.”

Now nobody forces Toyota to comply with a code that isn’t in effect yet. To extinguish any lingering doubt, Nolasco said: “Our EDRs are designed to retain their memory even after they are disconnected from an electric power source.”

Why did the WSJ rely on “people familiar with the findings”, and not on the people familiar with the Event Data Recorder? Why are anonymous sources used if people who can lose their job if they talk nonsense are ready to answer a simple question? Why did the WSJ even print a story that was old hat as readers of the Financial Times know?

You think the story ends here? No, it doesn’t.

Yesterday, another story was floated: The British site Just-auto reported that the Wall Street Journal story was “planted by Toyota.” Just-auto even found a source for that assertion, an unnamed “NHTSA spokeswoman in Washington” that supposedly said: “That story was planted by Toyota. Toyota is the source – yes we know that for definite.” Jalopnik ran a similar story, claimed they “spoke with a NHTSA employee (who wished to remain nameless)” and said that they “received a somewhat similar response.” Why does it smell like Jalopnik called absolutely nobody, and simply cribbed the Just-auto rumor? And why does it appear as if Just-auto talked to the same ditzy secretary that had never heard of non-volatile memory?

The big story (driver error) wasn’t planted by Toyota. It had been told by Daniel Smith and Richard Boyd of NHTSA weeks ago, and was just warmed-over by WSJ. And why should Toyota plant a story of  EDRs with Alzheimer’s, and then go on record today and say the opposite? Just-auto claimed that “Toyota in Tokyo could not be reached for comment.” Well, if you forget that Tokyo is 8 hours ahead of Bromsgrove, Worcs., no wonder nobody will pick up the phone. Friendly tip to Just-auto: When it’s noon in Bromsgrove, it’s 8 in the evening in Toyko, and even the worst workaholics are on their way home or in a Ginza bar.

This turns into a C-movie, a really bad one.  Secretaries usually don’t comment about Data Recorders. A government agency usually doesn’t accuse a company of planting a story. Wall Street Journal reporters usually call the other side for confirmation. People usually look at their watch when calling other continents. Someone is desperately trying to keep a story alive that had been dead at the get-go. May we ask that this is done with a bit more finesse?

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Toyota Unintended Acceleration Gremlins Running Amok – In The Media And At Illegal Speeds Tue, 02 Feb 2010 18:56:42 +0000

The media and “celebrities” are making hay over the Toyota recall issue, desperate to find evidence of electronic and software gremlins. We’re adamant in stating that Toyota needs to change their software to give braking priority over a stuck pedal, and to replace the pedals, of course. And there may well be genuine software or electronic glitches out there, but we’d like to see solid evidence of them. Instead, we’re stuck listening to Steve Wozniak’s experience with a faulty cruise control on his Prius. It’s being spun as an example of Toyota’s electronics gremlins, creating  confusion and scare-mongering. As if there wasn’t enough of that already.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has described a repeatable situation that is clearly a flaw in his cruise control, and it only happens at super-legal speeds (from

My 2010 Prius has a package that includes parallel parking assist and cruise control distance limiter. In some fictional state (let’s say ‘private property’) I tap my cruise control speed lever up and the car speed increases from 80 to 81.I tap this leve again and again, up to 83 mph. Then I tap it again and the car takes off without speed limiting. Tapping this lever down has no effect. The car is shortly up to maybe 97 mph. I repeated this many times.

One doesn’t think of things like putting the car in neutral instantly.

The natural braking action does disable this effect.

Wozniak has made this very clear: this only happens (repeatedly) above 83 mph. And a tap on the brakes releases the speed control, exactly as it should. This story is getting repeated play on Jalopnik, and other sites. Interestingly, Jalop modified their original from yesterday story to “sanitize” it, removing any reference to the illegal speed, as well as removing the link to his original comments (above) that describes the situation. I guess they though that might not go down so well. Instead, it’s being shown as evidence of Toyota’s callous disregard of their customer’s safety, because Toyota won’t drop everything and give the Great Woz a personal response to his complaint.

Well, the cruise control on my ’77 Dodge Chinook camper does the same thing, above 63 mph. Perhaps it’s trying to tell me something, because the one time I drove consistently faster than that I cracked an exhaust manifold. I’m digressing, but the point is this: Steve Wozniak’s problem is not a dangerous phantom or gremlin, but a consistent and repeatable flaw in his cruise control. And since cruise control is neither necessary and can be disabled, and the flaw happens only above 83 mph, perhaps Toyota legitimately has more pressing problems on its hands and feet.

Update : Jalopnik is reporting that thanks to its extensive coverage, Toyota will be taking Wozniak’s Prius for a week’s of testing. It helps to be a celebrity and be heard.

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Jalopnik’s Mea Culpa Fri, 08 Jan 2010 23:33:44 +0000 (courtesy:some website that desperately wants more traffic)

Blogging, like most human pursuits, is perennially torn between two competing impulses: getting paid and keeping it real. On the internet, where the basest pandering tends to yield the most bounteous rewards in traffic (if not discourse), the temptation to lose focus in search of new traffic is ever present. In a striking piece entitled “The Awesomeness Manifesto,” Jalopnik Editor-in-Chief Ray Wert admits that over the past year (or so) he and his website have strayed too far from the path of realness. The impetus for the decline in standards: pressure from Gawker bosses, and what he paints as a year of post-carpocalyptic malaise.

A year ago this month, I caved. I did what I was told, dampening our smart and snarky voice. I moved Murilee from daily to weekend duty and let go of many new names. Instead of looking forward while remembering the past, I forced my overworked and undersupported team to stumble blindly across the post-Carpocalypse automotive desert. We chased the same carrot as Autoblog, Motor Trend, and the rest, pursuing what we were told was the “growth segment” of the automotive universe — general consumers and non-enthusiasts…. we were hungry for cheap traffic, and we gorged, competing over meaningless press releases and page-view-whoring galleries because there was nothing else on the table. And dammit, we were good at it.

The good news is that Wert says he’s sorry. Jalopnik, he says, will once again focus on “a new breed of enthusiast… waiting to be freed from the shackles of a crossover culture.” The not-so-good news?

First of all, there’s the problem of Wert’s excuse. The pressure from “Gawker overlords” is a legitimate cop-out, but the suggestion that 2009 was somehow not a good year for car news is flat-out wrong. Sure, it was turbulent and confusing, but there’s never been a better time to be talking cars than the last 12 months. Unless, like Wert, you spent your “Carpocalypse” hocking “Save GM” T-Shirts and penning paeans like “The Case For Rick Wagoner.” Which may explain why he suggests several times in the “Manifesto” that a key element missing in Jalopnik’s yearlong traffic bender was a “just-shy-of-libertarian voice.” Needless to say, we’ll be curious to see how that manifests itself.

The first clue isn’t promising. Wert rails against “nanny-state-bloated hybrids, crossovers, and shitboxes,”  passionately disclaiming that “these vanilla appliances were built for the Big Gulp-fattened, cow-like masses, not enthusiasts like us.” Which keeps things fantastically real, but falls short of explaining the link between gas-electric hybrids and state paternalism. The real result appears to be a strange form of enthusiast fundamentalism.

We’re also giving up on breathlessly and enthusiastically reporting about boring cars. So what if there’s a new Dodge Journey or Toyota Sienna? Those are the vehicles that the car companies want us to report on, and that we’ve mistakenly covered out of a desire to please some SEO god rather than the enthusiasts. Dull, slow hybrids? Fuck ‘em. If you want to do something green, ride a bus or the subway when you commute and drive a Se7en on the weekends. We’ll also no longer allow ourselves to be trapped in the middle, championing just-greater-than-meh by saying “it’s better than the rest of the segment” when the entire segment’s worthless. That’s like saying one piece of shit smells better than than the rest of the pile, and you deserve better.

Death to the infidel, er, Avalons! Because there’s hope for a whole generation… who have never owned a car.

Some old-school car writers think this is the end for the car-loving individual. I think they’re wrong. I believe the post-Carpocalyptic automotive world is actually fertile ground for a new breed of enthusiast. This new generation is waiting to be freed from the shackles of a crossover culture. Who are they? They’re the gadget guys and gamers who have grown up driving cars on a computer but never tried them in real life. I truly believe that once they feel what it’s like to drive an awesome and exciting real car, they’ll never turn back.

Maybe. The problem, as Wert points out, is that “23% of people believe their car is “something special — more than just a way to get around.” That figure is half of what it was in 1991. If that trend continues, by 2021, less than 5% of American drivers will give an emotional rat’s ass about the car they drive.” It’s laudable that Wert wants to fight that, but it’s not clear if the games and gadgets crowd he’s trying to appeal to are even on the side of the automobile at all.

In any case, having watched Jalopnik’s quality slide (over more than just the last year, to be perfectly honest), Wert’s piece is definitely heartening. We should be so lucky as to see a mea culpa of this candor and specificity out of the former leaders of GM and Chrysler. Betting the house on an enthusiast audience may not be what Gawker wants to see, but this thing we call blog runs on passion, not traffic numbers. All any of us can do is keep following the most exciting, engaging stories and hoping you, the readers, keep coming back.

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CTS-V Challenge Lap Times Thu, 29 Oct 2009 17:58:05 +0000

Via Cadillac’s Twitter Feed:

John Heinricy (Cadillac test driver)- Cadillac CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:46:560

Aaron Link (Cadillac development engineer)- Cadillac CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:48:902

Brian Redman- CTS-V: Top Lap: 2:49:596

Michael Cooper (Who is this guy?)- BMW M3: Top Lap: 2:50:424

Jack Baruth- Cadillac CTS-V (TTAC): Top Lap: 2:51:153

Lawrence Ulrich- CTS-V (New York Times): Top Lap: 2:53:157

Bob Lutz- Cadillac CTS-V (VP of Marketing, GM): Top Lap: 2:56:321

Michael Mainwald ( BMW M5: Top Lap: 3:05:398

Wes Siler- Mitsubishi Evo X (Jalopnik): Top Lap: 3:08:126

Chris Fairman- CTS-V: Top Lap: 3:14:292

Archan Basu- Jaguar XF: Top Lap: 3:15:670

Tom Loder- Audi RS4: Top Lap:  3:15:702

It’s official: TTAC’s top driver has beaten Bob Lutz! Check back tomorrow for Jack’s on-the-ground take on the weirdness that was.

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