The Truth About Cars » swag The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +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 » swag 2014 NAIAS: Profits And Shrimp Might Be Back But Swag Still Sparse Mon, 20 Jan 2014 13:00:11 +0000 IMG_1536

When we asked our readers what you wanted us to cover at the 2014 NAIAS media preview, one of the requests was about swag and perks. There was a time, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, when automotive press kits and related items distributed to members of the media at major auto shows were special enough and collectible enough that a decent number of literature and toy dealers would bring entire crews to those shows to get inventory to sell on eBay. The former communications director of the Chicago Auto Show would publicly bemoan the presence of what he called “press kit thieves” who’d manage to get past the credentials committee to get in the show and then out past security with boxes of press kits and cases of die cast models. There were so many things that would be collectible to car enthusiasts one could make a business out of it.

All I will personally say on the matter is that Budget had a great deal on the Ford Ranger pickup truck and that my grandfather, who was a junkman that dealt in paper and rags, taught me not to throw away things that others will pay you for them. That was then. Today, though, thumb drives have replaced CDs which themselves replaced hard copy press kits, and after years of financial difficulties in the auto industry, the extravagant giveaways of yesteryear are pretty much over, with at least one notable exception. At this year’s NAIAS, some companies didn’t even bother with thumb drives, they simply handed out cards with a web address for media information. Why bother with the expense of even a giveaway thumb drive when the same digital information can be distributed online at a fraction of the cost?


Chrysler is pretty much the only car company left that makes an effort to create special press kits, and while there are those who criticize the “Imported from Detroit” tagline approved by a French guy working for an Italian car company, some of the press kits for the Chrysler 200 (the ones marked “special edition”) contained a Pewabic Pottery ceramic tile embossed with that tagline and the Chrysler logo. Pewabic Pottery is a Detroit institution and it was founded over a century ago, part of the Arts & Crafts movement. I don’t know how much the tile would be worth on eBay but most Detroiters will think it’s pretty cool.


Another of Chrysler’s press kits appeals to me and not just because I’m a Detroiter. They gave out a press kit commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan. When I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see it included a pair of red-blue 3D glasses and that some of the images in the kit were 3D anaglyphs. Regular readers may know that I play around with 3D. When I work big car shows I give out red-blue 3D glasses as business cards for Cars In Depth, so it was neat coming across some 3D materials in the swag.


Speaking of 3D, it wasn’t swag but Nissan and Honda both were using 3D technology in their displays. Nissan had some virtual reality goggles using motion tracking for an immersive experience with the iDX concept and while there were many driving simulators on the show floor, Honda’s used a head mounted 3D display. Mercedes-Benz’s use of 3D technology might be a bit more practical, since they use a pair of video cameras as part of their driver assist and safety systems in their cars.


Chrysler’s last bit of swag was a key chain in the shape of a piston and connecting rod. Attached to the ring was a USB thumb drive (holding a digital Mopar press kit) in the shape of a key. It looks like key shaped thumb drives were a hit at the advertising specialties companies that service the automakers because Denso, Volkwagen and Cadillac also gave them out, the Cadillac thumb drive coming on a leather key fob with Cadillac’s new crest.


Other thumb drives were more conventionally shaped, though the Kia GT4 Stinger concept press kit came on a thumb drive shaped like the car.


The smart car press kit likewise came in something that looked like a smart car but according to the pretty lady handing them out many people thought they were novelty rubber erasers. The GMC Canyon press kit’s thumb drive swiveled out of a diamond plate holder.


The Corvette Z06 press kit was on a conventional thumb drive but befitting a limited edition Corvette, it had a special presentation.


It was packaged in a cardboard box, as for watches or jewelry and it came with three lapel pins, a Z06 pin, a crossed flags Corvette pin, and one of Jake, the Corvette skull mascot.


Chevy also gave out buttons and trading cards.


The Z06 was not the only American performance car getting its first auto show introduction. The 2014 NAIAS is the first time the all new 2015 Mustang will be seen at an auto show. Since only a limited number of people were present at the various live reveals last month the Detroit show will be the first time large numbers of people will see the new Mustang in person and Ford has an extensive display devoted to the car and its history. An upstairs section contains 50 years of Mustang memorabilia. It looks like some show goers during the public days will get the chance to assemble a snap-fit 1/24th scale model of the new Mustang coupe. They were so rare at the media preview that I haven’t seen any show up on eBay at all.


Part of Toyota’s reveal presentation of the Ft-1 is-it-the-next-Supra? concept was produced by Polyphony Digital (i.e. Sony) using the graphics engine of their latest release Gran Turismo 6. Not surprisingly, the virtual FT-1 is now available for download for GT6 players. Perhaps more surprisingly, Toyota gave out full functional copies of the driving simulator. The racing sim is probably the most valuable thing we got in terms of retail price but it’s pretty much worthless to me as I don’t have a PS3 console, or any gaming console for the matter.


It’s interesting that as mass manufacturers stop printing hard copy sales brochures, assuming that the hoi polloi have access to smartphones with bar code readers (and disappointing people who collect and archive automotive sales literature), some luxury marques still prefer the printed page. Instead of a barcode or even a cardstock brochure, Porsche gave out hardcover books on the new 911 Targa. Usually when a brand like Jaguar or Corvette gives out a book, there’s some history included, but the 911 Targa book is just an elaborate sales brochure.


Scion also hasn’t yet abandoned paper entirely. Working with artist Shin Tanaka, the Toyota brand gave out die cut paper toys that you can construct, assembling each of the cars in Scions line up.


If you have an Instagram account, you could also use a vending machine Scion set up that dispenses Scion tzotchkes in exchange for promoting the company via social media. I don’t have an Instagram account by the nice pretty lady worked the machine for me and I got a free hat, sort of a tradition at Scion. Scion has given out knit skull caps and baseball caps at the big auto shows since the brand was launched.


Some automotive vendors also use the NAIAS to have press conferences and Denso gave out PED rechargers at their event.


So that’s it when it comes to giveaways at the 2014 NAIAS. Before the domestic auto industry melted down, the New York Times popularized a cliche that went as follows, “you can tell how the domestic auto industry is doing by how big the shrimp are at the Detroit auto show’s media preview,” presuming that there would always be shrimp served up to the press by automakers, the only question was how big they’d be. For a number of years that cliche simply didn’t apply, but most car companies doing business in North America are now making money here and I noticed that crustaceans were being served by at least couple of car companies in their buffets. The car companies may be profitable these days, and the shrimp may be back at the Detroit auto show, but a confluence of factors means that the glory days of auto show swag are behind us.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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TTAC Gives, And TTAC Taketh Away; Blessed Be Thy Name Of TTAC Fri, 22 Jun 2012 12:51:58 +0000

A TTAC contributor who shall remain nameless recently raised an issue at our secret conclave regarding the free gifts that automakers sometimes give out to journalists during press trips. Said writer was due to receive a very big ticket item (less expensive than a Rolex, but more than an iPod) and wanted to know if he should accept or refuse it. The answer, handed down by our very own BS, was “take it – and then send it to Derek so he can give it away as a contest prize.”

While I have yet to find a large parcel sitting on my desk containing said item, I did get a pair of Oakley Karting shoes on a recent junket. They are size 11, which is not only my shoe size, but that a fairly common one. As per TTAC regulations, I informed Bertel of my gift, but I was met with a stern rebuke.

“Keep them,” he barked in his gravelly Bavarian baritone. “Nobody wants smelly shoes or sweaty t-shirts.” The shoes, I can assure you, are brand new, never worn, though they may not have the original box due to packing restrictions. I already have a pair of authentic Made in Pakistan karting boots I bought for $40 at Mosport, and they not only work well, but my girlfriend has forbid me from wearing any motorsports apparel outside the house.

If you want them, just write an 800-word piece praising me to the high heavens about my Semitic good looks or my superlative prose  tell me why you deserve them. Otherwise I’ll leave them in my hotel room. The winner gets the shoes, mailed to them at my expense, as well as their essay published as a “Ur-Turn” contribution.

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Tesla Model S Customer Blog: Delivery… But Still No Car Mon, 12 Jul 2010 16:06:49 +0000

Tesla has finally acknowledged the existence of its Model S customers–and it’s about freaking time. It’s been more than a year  since I plunked down a $5,000 deposit  and officially joined the Tesla family as Model S customer No. P 717. (Projected delivery date: early 2012.) At first, the bennies of Model S ownership were pretty cool.  A neck-snapping test drive in the Tesla Roadster instantly persuaded me that electric drive is the future of high-performance driving. An invitation to the grand  opening of the New York Tesla dealership, located in the oh-so-hip Chelsea district, featured wine, fancy food, and thin artsy people wearing black. I  sat back to await the presumed  steady flow of Model S owner communications–technical updates, customer surveys, maybe even a factory tour or a test drive in a prototype for a lucky few of us.
Then, nothing. Dead silence.  For the last year, I’ve felt more like an orphan than a member of the Tesla family.  Could they have lost my file (and–shudder–my $5,000)?  No, a call to the factory revealed everything was fine.  Apparently, Tesla simply had better things to do than communicate with its Model S customers.
It seemed bizarre.  Chevrolet has an aggressive program of technical info and updates about the Volt.  Nissan has done a superb job of building buzz for the Leaf. But the Model S seemed stuck in an informational and promotional black hole.  Why wasn’t the company bombarding us hyper-receptive potential buzzmakers with technical updates, promotional doo-dads, and invitations to EV-nut get-togethers? Time and again, friends would ask me, “Hey, what’s the latest with the Model S?”  My answer: I haven’t a clue.
The first break came June 16, when I got an e-mail “Model S Update: Tesla Factory.”  To my surprise and delight,  it contained actual new technical information.  The detailed description of the production process for the Model S in the new Fremont factory included some intriguing technical nuggets, like the low-emission paint process that will use powder-coating for both  primer and clear coats, and a final water-leak test that will use ultrasonic waves instead of actual water.  Interesting stuff, for a Tesla geek at least.
Then last week, I opened  my mailbox to find a package from Tesla.  The box itself was an eye-catcher,  printed to resemble the artful black-and-gold weave of  the Roadster’s carbon-fiber composite body shell. Feverishly opening the box, I found inside a splendid assortment of promotional swag:  a  coffee mug, thermos bottle, baseball hat, and  stylish black T-shirt, all emblazoned with the Tesla logo.  A thumb-size Roadster (made of metal, not plastic) had wheels that actually turned, and I immediately set it zooming  across the kitchen floor. There were a bunch of VIP cards that entitled the bearer to an overnight demo in a Roadster, and I was urged to pass them along to friends.  (I’ll save one for myself.)  And lastly, in a translucent envelope sealed in the royal style, a card from some guy named Elon that said simply, “A small gesture of appreciation from Tesla.”
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a test drive in a Model S prototype. But at least our existence has finally been acknowledged. Finally, I feel part of the Tesla family again.
While you're waiting... DSC_1023 DSC_1031 DSC_1033
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The Challenges Of Automotive Journalism Tue, 08 Dec 2009 18:29:47 +0000 It ain't easy being sleazy... (
The following is a piece called “What We Wear” by Alex Law, reprinted from the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s November 27 “Mini Newsletter.”

Word that AJAC has actually launched a set of branded clothes struck me as quite meaningful, since the long history of the auto writing trade is to wear clothes with other people’s names.

It must be noted that Dave Booth, Jim Kenzie and I discussed a variation on this idea about a decade back, but it was limited to one of those jackets you see on people in a rock band. Our idea was to design a Car Guys World Tour jacket, with a map of the globe on the back. The first time you visited a particular city, you could sew a star on its location on the jacket in commemoration. Visit Moscow and put a star on its spot on the jacket, and so on. Ironically, we were traveling too much to make it happen.

But getting clothes from auto firms has been going on for as long as I’ve been in the business, a term which recently passed 30 years. According to a usually reliable source (Hi, Walt), the car companies only went to jackets, shirts and hats because in the 1960s the gift thing was getting out of hand. In the early days of auto journalism, the gifts would sometimes include appliances, such as fridges.

Now, somewhere in deepest Milton or in a four-star hotel in Xanadu or some such place, Jim Kenzie is reading this and wishing he could interrupt me to tell his story about the inexperienced Volvo PR man, but he can’t because I’m going to. This is only fair, as we have been stealing each other’s stories for years. Ask him to tell you about my worst experience with a copy editor. And for you Internet folks, a copy editor is someone who checks your story for errors before it appears.

Maybe 20 years back, Volvo brought a new guy into its European PR staff. He was smart and all those good things, but he did not know that the protocol there at the time was that you put the media agenda for the program on the gift in the hotel rooms. He realized his mistake the next morning, when a line of smiling hacks from all over Europe came down to check out with a TV under their arms.

The closest thing to a flap about gift clothes happened in Atlanta in the late 1980s. But you have to go back a year to North Carolina to appreciate the situation better, when GM had a program for its Buick-Olds-Cadillac division in the famous Greenbrier Hotel. At the time that immense, rambling structure was known purely as a golf destination, its secret life as a gigantic bunker for the U.S. government in the 1950s was as then unknown. Really. Bing it on the web. Anyway, we all got an ugly green Greenbrier Resort sweater when we checked in, and the PR people soon made it clear that they’d made no effort to guess our sizes. Take it back to the gift shop, they said, and get the size you want, or, you know, exchange it for something you liked better. My memory is that nearly all the sweaters went back in favour of something else.

So the next year, in a resort on Lake Lanier, Georgia, the BOC people cut to the chase and issued gift certificates for the gift shop or the pro shop at the golf course. Only you had to sign the gift certificates, and this struck a lot of people as a very bad thing, so no gifts were taken home. Ugly sweaters as currency is one thing, apparently, but a piece of paper with a dollar sign ($50 US) and your signature is something else.

BOC took note of this the next year and arranged for everyone to get a pair of Foot-Joys running shoes, with people on hand to measure your feet so the custom-fitted beauties would fit perfectly when they arrived at your home a few weeks later. They were great shoes, which I wore out on more press trips.

This chain of events got Jim and I to talking about gift clothes shortly thereafter, and he started to bemoan the fact that it was always jackets, shirts and hats, jackets, shirts and hats, jackets, shirts and hats, with a pair of gloves or shoes every now and then. This helped him keep his clothes’ budget low, he admitted, but he was trying to think of something that would relieve him of the need to buy pants, socks and underwear.

His idea was that the car companies across Canada should figure out how much they planned to spend on gift clothes every year and contribute that to a fund that would be apportioned to auto writers on an individual basis. That way, we would easily get enough to pay all of our clothing requirements, even though we would have order bespoke tailoring. After all, gift clothes always include the car company’s name or logo, so Jim figured that all of the shirts and jackets we had made would come with a Velcro patch on the chest, so that we could affix the appropriate logo depending upon whose program we were attending. When we wore the clothes away from a car event, Jim suggested, we should use a patch that advertised his band.

This seemed like an excellent idea to me, but I worried that it would be too hard for the car companies to agree on how it would work. My solution was simpler: we would find clothing items or other things that we really liked and tell the car companies about them for future use. Thus was the notion of The Graft Registry born.

Feel free to use the idea now, if you want. From what I hear, the shirts, jackets, hats and USB memory sticks are starting to build up.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Price of Optimism Edition Tue, 10 Nov 2009 20:18:23 +0000 Swag!

While reading through some of our analysis of Chrysler’s five-year plan, you may have found yourself wondering “what did the Pentastar boyz do to convince you of their company’s viability plan besides flash PowerPoint slides at you for seven hours?” To fully comply with TTAC’s stringent disclosure standards, we present Chrysler’s material compensation for the seven hours that auto journalists most wish they had back.

The only two items of real value are a wireless mouse in the shape of a Fiat 500 and a Chrysler-branded USB storage drive. The USB drive uses real aluminum, giving it a heft that is clearly intended to signify the Chrysler brand’s new, up-market positioning. But when was the last time you saw real aluminum trim inside a Chrysler? Continuing the push to portray Chrysler as a luxury brand are the new Chrysler 300 and Town and Country brochures, which are printed on a heavy stock and covered in a faux-leather paper product. Again, why not just spend this money on the cars themselves? Though it’s difficult to tell from the picture, the blue-covered documents are a three-inch-high stack of presentation slides, a handy reminder of my seven hours in PowerPoint Hell. Oh yes, and the New New Chrysler had one more journo-softening outlay, courtesy of the Fiat caterers: a delicious Northern Italian luncheon that one veteran described as “the best junket lunch ever.” Orzo, cannelloni alla funghi, imported salamis, Piedmont-style asparagus and more. Did these perks and treats affect our coverage? Decide for yourself:

Chrysler Financial Plans: Leveraged Assumptions

Chrysler Ups Ad Spend

Chrysler Brand: Refresh and Market Like Hell

Dodge Brand: Refresh and Market Like Hell

Hi, My Name Is: Ram

Dodge Marketing Explained: Sort Of

Dodge Versus Ram Case Study: Nitro

Chrysler: The Powertrain Plans

Fiat 500: The Littlest Bailout Baby

What’s Wrong With This Picture: Planning Sales Edition

Sergio’s Plea for Optimism

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