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.
TTAC has long held that reviews of press cars made available by manufacturers at launches and press fleets must be complimented by reviews of vehicles acquired from dealer lots. It’s been a controversial position at times, and I’ve had to do battle with OEMs as recently as a few months ago to explain why dealer car impressions matter. Today, Consumer Reports is proving the point by revealing
When VW dropped off an early media car this summer, I remember looking at the trunk and saying to myself “well, at least both of the cheap hinges are dressed up with plastic covers, unlike the Jetta, which just has plastic on the side with the wiring.” As you can see in these two photos from Car & Driver and Edmunds it appears that the Passats in VW’s press fleet have covers on the hinges.
But not that Passat you just bought. No, your new Passat isn’t as nicely finished as the press version.
Like all the vehicles we put through testing, Consumer Reports buys retail samples at a car dealership. I personally purchased the Passat TDI we’re testing. (We also bought a 2.5 SE and a 3.6 SEL Premium.) As you can see in our images, none of the Passats have the two plastic covers found on the press cars. Consumers apparently only get a cover for the wiring loom hinge; the other one goes bare.
Interestingly, we had a somewhat similar issue with VW when a Passat press car proved to be equipped in a spec that is not actually available at dealerships (V6 with 17-inch wheels). When we noticed the discrepancy (and by we, I mean Michael Karesh, of course), we asked VW how we had received a non-representative model, to which they replied that press fleet vehicles were “early builds” from the new Nashville plant, and therefore not necessarily in market-ready spec. Which is a reason, but not an excuse: the media can only serve consumers well if we’re given representative cars to review. So, while these discrepancies are all relatively minor, details matter when you’re spending upwards of $20k on something. Hopefully VW and the rest of the industry will learn from this experience and make greater efforts to equip their media cars exactly to dealer spec. One also hopes that Motor Trend has driven at least one Passat that’s not from a press fleet…
Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award has been a lightning rod of criticism among automotive gadflies ever since… well, you decide. Corvair? Vega? Mustang II? Every year, MT picks one “best” car from a market that serves a wide variety of needs, and every year, the autoblogosphere rushes to help the tottering “contest” collapse under the weight of its own pretense. This year, with Motor Trend picking Volkswagen’s new de-Euro’d Passat (a car that has received a decidedly mixed critical reception) for its highest honor, is it any wonder that the peanut gallery is frothing over the choice?
Are you unhappy with the fact that Chinese car sales were down 1.07 percent in October? No problem! All you have to do is to subscribe to the on-line version of the Financial Times. For the price of your subscription, you would be assured that “China’s passenger car sales in October surged 75.8 per cent from a year earlier.” Don’t believe it? The Financial Times will tell you it’s true. (If the link breaks, they woke up.) (Read More…)
The New York Times has a story that’s fascinating in its own right: the number of people leasing a car on leasetrader.com without first test-driving the car has doubled since 2007. Troubling stuff for most auto enthusiasts among us, but probably not much of a surprise to readers on the retail side of the business. One auto broker explains the most common reasons for taking this leap of faith:
Generally these are people who know what they want, whether it’s because they’re very brand-loyal or they’ve fallen in love with the styling of a particular model. Same goes for buyers who are strictly interested in getting the best deal, and those with limited choices like a big family that needs a nine-passenger vehicle with 4-wheel drive.
But, as one “enthusiast” explains, some consumers are just so well informed, they don’t need to drive their car before they buy it. That’s what they subscribe to magazines for!
Like most corporate trends, the rush to social media is often little more than an opportunity for new consultants to sell common sense packaged in the buzzwords du jour. And though it’s easy to just laugh off the process as just another fad, it’s important to remember that common sense is in relatively short supply these days… if the only way to get it across is to punctuate it with words like “engagement” and “voice share,” so be it. And because social media is forcing companies to come to grips with every possible kind of feedback, the trend is actually helping validate the hard-hitting editorial approach that TTAC has long embraced. At Motor Trader’s social media conference, Richard Anson, CEO of the consumer review site Reevoo, explains the simple truth:
Social content will help drive sales so trust and transparency are vital; we all trust our peers more than any vendor or brand. Negative reviews are good for business. Retailing is all about transparency so perfection is not credible. Customers expect and want negative reviews and they give dealers a great opportunity to engage.
You know, it’s getting goddamned hard for a chap to enjoy a decent corporate-sponsored nosebag from time to time what with the ever-imminent prospect of Jack “Banquo” Baruth popping out from behind a silver soup tureen and shouting “J’accuse!” like some sort of admonitory, jort-clad Visigoth. At least, such I was thinking to myself as I lined the walls of my pericardium with the rich yellow fat best produced by overly-sauced food and moderately crappy wines.
This was in the latter stages of a lunch – sorry - launch I was attending in, admittedly, a very unprofessional capacity. I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up here, but I’m one of those people who can’t say no when offered work; here though there would be no byline, and theoretically therefore, no conflict of interest.
Still, I was keeping one eye open, metaphorically-speaking, for our own favourite Sword of Damocles, as – pardon me good sir, but I believe your trotter is in my trough!
Lifer Automotive Journalist the Size of a Small Moon: “Oh, do beg pardon. Snarfle-snarfle-glub.”
Last year, world car production had jumped 26 percent to 77.8 million units, as it recovered from a carmageddon-induced slump. This year, global car output will see a “sharp slowdown,” if The Nikkei [sub] is to be believed. The Tokyo business paper cites IHS and J.D.Power, both expect only 4 percent growth. The Nikkei however should do some chart studies before writing. (Read More…)
After decades of offering some of the best C-segment products available, Honda made the mistake of phoning in its latest generation of Civic just as the entire competition stepped up its game. Compared to the previous generation of Cobalts, Corollas, Elantras and Focii, the current Civic might be a fine car… but compared to the new crop of compacts, its barely competitive. In his TTAC review, Michael Karesh called the new Civic “a low point” and “dreadfully dull,” while Consumer Reports struck the body blow by failing to recommend the Civic for the first time in memory. And though Honda’s initial reaction showed signs of a potentially fatal bunker mentality, lashing out at CR and pointing to a second place Motor Trend showing (because that’s proof of an absence of mediocrity), it seems the company is coming around.
It’s safe to say that most of the seemingly infinite number of “car of the year” competitions are so utterly bunk that they’re not even worth the effort of exposing. But the reality is that you still see advertisements for cars proudly proclaiming them the favored choice of some local, national, or media outlet’s car of the year competition. So, to show just how non-representative and unscientific these awards can be, we thought we’d share the categories from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC)’s “Test Fest,” which will determine the “Canadian Car Of The Year” as well as the favored cars in several categories. Our Canadian tipster writes:
They do all kinds of crap that skew the results. For example, they use the cars “as tested” price to determine what category it falls under, rather than MSRP. So what category the car falls under is completely at the whim of whatever car the manufacturer drops off and what category THEY want the car tested in. You could have an Elantra fall into the “Over $21,000″ category or “Under $21,000″ category depending on content. Same car, 2 different categories. But it gets better. Some of the categories I call “lump” categories because they just throw everything in one category. My favorite is Sports Car Under $50K. They actually have the Veloster competing against an Charger SRT8 and a C Class Merc. No, I’m not making this us. I’ve included the list for you, so that you may try and decipher WTF these boobs are doing.
Hit the jump to check out the categories for yourself. But first, it should be noted that despite previous questions about the AJAC award’s ethics, the competition now has a page on its website dedicated specifically to enumerating the ethical obligations of participating journalists and the award’s organizers. Unfortunately that page is limited to the following content:
Code of Ethics
AJAC Ethical Guidelines
Usually it’s the Germans who we find continually pushing the crash-test envelope, but this time around the UK’s Fifth Gear TV Show that decided to crash a car at 120 MPH. Sure, the Germans already proved how much of a difference can be made by crashing at 50 MPH instead of the traditional 40 MPH, just as the Chinese can make any of their cars appear safe by testing at 35 MPH rather than 40 MPH. But 120 MPH? It’s never been done before…
Electric sports carmaker Tesla Motors has lost a major part of its high court libel claim against the BBC’s Top Gear programme, but is still suing the corporation for malicious falsehood over an episode that showed the company’s Roadster model running out of battery in a race.
Ruling at the high court in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that no Top Gear viewer would have reasonably compared the car’s performance on the show’s airfield track to its likely performance on a public road.
Here’s a simple truth. Virtually everything that I write online about cars gets ripped off. Whether I publish it here, at Cars In Depth, over at The Truth About Cars, or Left Lane News, I can go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge that I’m getting ripped off by other websites, usually single topic content aggregators. When the site operators are nice, they just excerpt the first paragraph and link back to the originating site. While that’s still a copyright violation (it’s not “fair use” because the excerpt isn’t used for the purpose of commentary or criticism), at least the original publisher gets some traffic out of the situation. Other site operators just go ahead and steal the entire post.
Take just about any post on TTAC, select and copy a complete sentence, drop that phrase in Google and you’ll probably find a plethora of purloining publishers. This site, copied Steve Lang’s post about repossessing cars verbatim. Another site, Edwards420.com, does nothing but publish content from TTAC, probably from our RSS feed.
It’s so commonplace that those of us who write for the site have a ho hum attitude about it because there really isn’t much that we can do about it.
My fleeting 15:21 minutes of dubious fame.
The third day of the Chengdu get-together morphed into what was called a “Global Automotive Media Summit.” The idea was to prep the Chinese car manufacturers for their global push as far as the global media are concerned. For that, the services of TTAC were enlisted. The manufacturers need any help they can get when it comes to handling the media. From BAIC to SAIC, from Chery to Geely, from state-owned Dongfeng all the way to wannabe manufacturer Pangda, they all were there and delivered their speeches. The speeches could be summed-up in two words, looped like techno-rock:
“Global. Global. Global. Global. Brands. Brands. Brands. Brands. Global Brands.”
Paul Ingrassia, deputy chief of Reuters and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the management turmoil at General Motors, was there and warned about too much haste. His warnings largely fell on deaf ears. (Read More…)