A Love Letter From Edmunds

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
a love letter from edmunds

The text after the jump appeared on Karl Brauer's blog "Karl on Cars" on Edmund's Inside Line. I asked Mr. Brauer for permission to publish it here, without editing or commentary. Nothing. (The same response I received when I asked Karl to email me Edmunds' policy on press junkets and public disclosure thereof.) So, under the "fair use" principle, I'm publishing it anyway. If Edmunds takes TTAC to court, I'll counter-sue for libel and send a note to the IRS asking about the tax implications of junketeering. If Edmunds sends an email asking TTAC to remove this excerpt, I'll take this post down and publish the email. Anyway, Edmunds may have a million visitors [multiplied exponentially], but at least we have transparency, integrity and a spell-checker.

Yada Yada Yada… "But one dark side to the "new media" is that anyone with an Internet address can badge themselves an "automotive authority" and subsequently expect the industry (and consumers) to take notice. After eight years at Edmunds I have a keen perspective on how hard it can be to convince the world you aren't just a punk kid with servers in your basement and a desire to get free test drives in new cars. In my case I was a punk kid with LOTS of servers and a desire to get free test drives…but I also wanted to provide accurate consumer information regarding those test drives to over one million visitors a month. That was in 1998, and our monthly visitor numbers are exponentially higher, as is the respect/cooperation we get from the manufacturers.

It wasn't always an easy journey, and I can relate to those publications still trying to achieve legitimacy in this ever-growing space. But I am also annoyed by those publications that break some basic rules of automotive journalism:

1. They target the established guys (like us) with all the usual "you've sold out and are owned by the manufacturers" crap. The most common battle cry is "the manufacturers pay for you to travel somewhere and drive their cars, so you obviously can't write a non-biased report." I think they mistakenly believe that by making such claims they can short-cut the process of becoming established themselves. Hate to rain on your parade guys, but there's only one way to make this trip — provide consistent, high quality automotive journalism over an extended time period (and I'm not talking a weekend, or month or even a year). Do that and the audience will come, followed shortly by respect from the rest of the industry.

2. They go after the manufacturers with false claims of influence to justify their own access to press vehicles. This usually comes in the form of lying about traffic numbers. And yes, I banged on the OEs to get press vehicle access over the years. Hell, I still do, as does everyone else in this space. Trying to get the hottest vehicles as soon as possible is part and parcel of being an automotive journalist. The difference here is that — once you're established — you can accurately claim people will be influenced by your road test content, and thus it's in the OE's best interest to be represented on your site. I've seen plenty of indigant editors out there who refuse to divulge monthly traffic numbers but insist they represent a core automotive Web site. Now why doesn't that behavior pass the smell test? The hypocrysy is also pretty hilarious. Do you think these guys would actually turn down a press event if they once got to the level of actually being invited? Me either.

3. When they don't get their way, they publicly trash said manufacturers and/or established publications. Apparently these guys feel that the best way to inform the automotive consumer/enthusiast is to whine about how nobody pays them any attention. Hey, as an automotive junkie you know what I really want to read about? How about 1,000 words on why manufacturer XYZ is a jerk because they won't give publication PDQ any cars? That's just fascinating stuff, let me tell you. Sure, we may have a First Drive on the Shelby GT500 and Acura RDX going up live tomorrow, but in the end we just can't compete against the ravings of an angry editor at a publication with 800 readers, now can we? Correction — after that latest rant they are down to 728 readers, and dropping fast…

Remember guys — the reader comes first. If you've got a problem with a manufacturer, deal with that manufacturer and spare your audience all the whining. Is there a specific publication I'm talking about here? Yes, there is. But there's no way I'm going to give them any additional publicity, so you'll all have to guess which one. Or maybe you don't care enough to guess (I'm hoping for the latter, as it further suggests a "not-a-moment-too-soon" death for this "illustrious" electronic rag)."


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2 of 18 comments
  • Dean Dean on Jun 19, 2006

    Edmunds? Who are they? A car site of some type? Too bad he didn't mention TTAC by name, because then you could sue for libel. By making vague accusations he keeps his ass out of that sling. And making vague accusations is chickenshit schoolyard behaviour. What a hypocrite.

  • Terry Parkhurst Terry Parkhurst on Jun 19, 2006

    Absolutely no one I know who is an automotive enthusiast - and that happens to be most of my friends and acquaintances - has ever said to me, "Boy, I was just reading about (name any auto or truck) at Edmunds and they said...." Conversely, I quote TTAC or Car and Driver (sorry Robert, but I grew up on Brock Yates and Leon Mandel). A buddy of mine, who is a machinist, relies on the printed edition of Road and Track. (He has no computer but does acknowledge that the magazine is not what it once was, most especially back in the day when John Bond Sr. ran it.) The people who use Edmunds to buy vehicles are the same people who use Consumer Reports. (I had one friend who used to quote that mag to me, an architect, who has now passed away from complications related to emphysema.) Edmunds is written for people who evaluate vehilces based on the number of cup holders and placement of same. Furthermore, Edmunds reminds me of what the late Truman Capote once said about the work of (the equally deceased) Jacqueline Susan, "That's not writing, that typing." Substitute the more preferred term of "keyboarding" and there it is.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.