Foreign reporters are a welcome interview target at the Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu, much to the amazement of the reporters who are used to interview other people. There is a lengthy interview with someone from TTAC. I don’t know what it says, it’s all in Chinese. (Don’t trust Google translate. Informed sources tell me the headline says: “Schmit: China’s car makers should open up to the media.”) (Read More…)
GM seems hell bent on convincing the automotive media that it’s better to stay behind their keyboards than show up to events like the Chevrolet Centennial event I was lured into. While my fellow oblivious “automotive journalists” and I were shuttled around GM’s facilities for some luxurious but entirely un-newsworthy “access,” the folks that aren’t here have scooped us suckers on the only remotely relevant news to come out of this event. The Detroit News‘s Christina Rogers reports that a news conference scheduled for about 12 hours from now will give GM occasion to announce that it will bring a
a small, battery-powered vehicle designed for urban market
to the US market. And, in the time-honored blogging tradition of speculating about speculation, GreenCarReport‘s John Voelcker has connected the dots that seem to confirm that this forthcoming EV will be based on the Spark City Car. All while us event attendees were still at the bar, drinking on GM’s dime. Oy…
Over at CNN Money, Alex Taylor III makes an astute observation about Bill Vlasic’s new book “Once Upon A Car,”
When Hollywood has tried capturing the auto industry on film, it aimed at realistic drama but wound up with suds… What filmmakers have lacked is believable characters and realistic dialogue. Until now, that is, thanks to a new book, Once upon a Car, by veteran Detroit newspaperman Bill Vlasic. Vlasic knows the industry in and out and enjoys near-universal access to its key figures. He recounts a tale filled with shrewd insights into their characters and conflicts told through verbatim accounts of their conversations. It’s the first nonfiction auto book that reads like a screenplay.
This, in a nutshell, is what I found so appealing about Vlasic’s book: it avoids the temptation to turn Detroit’s drama into a morality play, allowing the story to unfold in a personal, organic fashion. In my review of the book, to be published shortly by The Wall Street Journal, I argue that Vlasic’s approach holds a valuable lesson for automotive journalists of all stripes. Taylor, on the other hand, thinks Vlasic’s story is the perfect basis for a movie, and even goes so far as to make some casting suggestions (Al Pacino as Sergio Marchionne, Tom Hanks as Bill Ford, Tom Cruise as Alan Mulally, Sean Connery as Bob Lutz, Tom Wilkinson as Rick Wagoner). We already know there’s an auto industry video game simulation in the works, so I wonder, does the drama of the past few years make the auto industry a worthy subject for a great movie? At least worthier than, say, “The Prince Of Motor City“? If so, would you rather see a historically accurate film based directly on sources like Vlasic’s book, a fictionalized account with real-life characters, or a fictionalized film-à-clef interpretation? Also, wouldn’t Kyle McLaughlin make the better Rick Wagoner? Discuss…
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:
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.
Once upon a time, this stuff was easy. When Jean Jennings needed a little extra pocket change all she had to do was… make an ad. Like this one, for the Silverado. Or this one, for Jeep (which I swear was still visible less than a year ago). Nowadays, however, you’ve got to be a little more careful about how you go about lending your “editorial credibility” to one of the brands you’re supposed to be covering rather than shilling for. So instead of the straight-up “Hi, I’m Jean Jennings, Editor-in-Chief of Automobile Magazine, and here’s why I love Chevy’s Silverado” pimpatorial of the past, you’ve got to layer on the irony, load up on non-car-related distractions (I’ve got it… a puppet!) and generally avoid the personal testimonial format as much as possible.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s petulant letter to UAW President Bob King sounded to me like a man angry with being kept waiting after a long flight, but according to the Detroit News, it has “derailed” the “carefully crafted timeline” for contract negotiations. To wit:
Sources close to the negotiations told The Detroit News that a deal was imminent with General Motors Co. when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sat down at his Mac computer and fired off a sharply worded letter to UAW President Bob King at 10 p.m. Wednesday, accusing the union leader of violating their gentlemen’s agreement to sign off on a deal by the 11:59 p.m. deadline.
Shortly after the letter was sent, talks stopped at both companies.
Chrysler and the UAW agreed to extend their current contract for one week. Talks resumed Thursday between the two sides, but nothing of substance is being discussed at the bargaining table, according to people familiar with the talks.
Actually, that’s not exactly what everyone is reporting…
Just as Automotive News [sub] failed to cite Bertel’s ahead-of-the-game reporting on Terry Mcauliffe’s GreenTech Automotive firm as the inspiration for its coverage, McAuliffe himself has decided to ignore TTAC’s leadership in order to lash out at the leading industry paper’s write-up on his highly suspect venture. In response to AN [sub]‘s piece titled When you do the math, promoter extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe’s grand hybrid vehicle plan just doesn’t add up, the former Clinton fundraiser and DNC chair has written a feisty letter to the editor [sub], in which he argues
The Sept. 5 article about our efforts at GreenTech Automotive (“Real deal?”) stands in stark contrast with the Aug. 28 article in which you reported on partnerships between Toyota and Ford, Tesla, Aston Martin, Lotus and Salesforce.com (“Doing deals, Akio style”). The latter story says Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda “is breaking tradition to transform his ossified giant into a nimble competitor.”
Nimble competition is a key to success in our modern age of change and innovation. Yet you seem to take GreenTech to task for attempting just that. We aren’t trying to be GM, and we never plan on being bailed out by the U.S. government. We are embracing a different, leaner business model in which our world-class partners will play a key role in our success, and we are doing it with private capital.
TTAC’s own Steve Lang writes:
Thanks to the TTAC faithful, we will now begin airing regular shows every Thursday at 7:00 PM EST at this Internet site. Today’s guest will be none other than Jack Baruth. What we’ll talk about… who knows? That’s where you come in. Let us know what you would like for us to cover and we’ll be happy to bring it up.
Last month, a group calling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
What does it take for a tuned Porsche Cayenne to be featured at TTAC? It must be nothing less than the most interesting tuned Cayenne in the world. And your eyes don’t deceive you… that’s exactly what you’re looking at. The Eterniti Hemera may or may not have advantages relative to the competition from Mansory, Ruf, Gemballa et al, but its story beats all of them (with the possible exception of Gemballa, er, hollow. Eterniti burst onto the scene when a Twitter squatter managed to spread all kinds of speculation about the company, including that it would use licensed RedBull F1 technology, adding to rampant speculation that the company was somehow associated with Nissan’s Infiniti brand. Of course Bertel Schmitt tracked down the truth, and even though Porsche no longer associates itself with its former dealer and Eterniti founder Kenny Chen, Bertel could have told you nearly a month ago that the Hemera would be a tuned Cayenne. So, though this glorified bodykit of a car may seem like something of a letdown, its strange social-media-parable storyline makes it… the most interesting tuned Cayenne in the world.
Frank Greve’s “Taking Readers For a Ride” article told us a little bit about the priorities in he auto PR business. If you write for a buff-book, sugar will be blown up your anal orifice. If you are a blogger – tough noogies. That stance is utterly misguided and so past millennium, says someone who knows best. That someone is Scott Painter. Never heard of him? I’m sure you heard of TrueCar. Scott Painter is TrueCar’s founder. TrueCar and competitor Edmunds know the car business better than the manufacturers: Truecar and Edmunds predict monthly sales with razor-sharp accuracy, their analyses of transaction pricing and incentives provide unprecedented (and often unwelcome) transparency. Investor’s Business Daily had an interview with Painter. And what picture did he paint?
“Today, 98% of people who bought a car in the U.S. last month went online first. That is the reality and also the industry’s frustration.” (Read More…)
When bearded flip-flop enthusiast and serial-ruiner Jonny Lieberman recently wrote about his new long-term-tester fantasy ride – a stick-shifted, murda’d-out Caddy CTS-V wagon – he facebooked a prediction, “Cue the Baruth-venom in 3…2…1…” Quoth JB in response, “No venom here. In the best liberal fashion I have censured you for the ethics of it and moved on.”
Those of us in the peanut gallery goggled at the collegiality of the kaijus of contrarianism; thank goodness they weren’t going to start throwing buildings at each other again. Now Frank Greve’s AJR piece on auto-journo shillsterism has shown up, basically lauding Mr. Baruth as the Last Honest Man In Auto Journalism™ and intimating that Motor Trend is, by comparison, the painted whore of Babylon. Jeez, hasn’t Tokyo suffered enough?
There are three roads for auto writers.
The first is the ‘golden’ road. You simply buy or test drive a car with no string attached. Consumer Reports and guerrilla reviewers who ‘test drive’ at the dealership are the recipients of this honor.
The second is the ‘reality’ road. You use the press fleets and go to sponsored events. It cost less. But you realize the shiny happy PR people are going to try to twist your arm.
Most successful journalists start at the guerrilla side of number one and end up at number two.
But there are a ‘chosen few’ who embrace a third road… the mouthpiece road. Who knows? If you can shill and ‘build’ your relationships, you may just end up with a Maserati.
There was troubling news at the end of last week, as Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Kranz reported that an unnamed automaker was quietly accusing another unnamed automaker of tweaking its EPA fuel economy tests, arguing
There’s a noticeable difference between the mpg number posted on some cars’ window sticker and an analysis of the data submitted by automakers to the EPA.
We’ve tried to get several automakers to comment on the accusation, but nobody wants to touch it. But, as we’ve looked into the issue, a few more details have surfaced that seem worth sharing. Hit the jump for the latest…
TTAC’s own Steve Lang writes:
I will be filling for a couple of good friends at a radio show this evening. The ‘Wheels Events Radio Hour’ will be broadcast live at 7:00 P.M. Eastern time at this Internet site. We will be covering upcoming events with the SCCA along with my own miscellaneous ramblings about cars and the auto auction world. Who knows? I may even try to do some bid calling if they give me something to sell.
Sadly, while Steve’s on the air I’ll be busy gawking at a ’37 Hispano-Suiza, Jag XK-SS, Bugatti Atlante and the other ridiculous rides that make up the “Allure of The Automobile” Exhibit with my old man. So why don’t you tune in for me?