Is The Truth About Cars Unfair, Anti-American, Both or Neither?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

A couple of days ago, we published an editorial taking English auto scribe James May to task for flaming American cars. For this, we were flamed. Despite TTAC’s blanket ban on comments that diss the website, and our ban on [off topic] comments questioning our editorial stance or style, many of you cried foul. How could Mr. Swanson accuse a British writer of an anti-American car bias when TTAC [obviously] shared this same prejudice? After damping down the flames of perceived hypocrisy, I promised to provide offended readers a place to fire at will. And here it is.

Longtime visitors will know TTAC’s fought the bias battle before. From the very first GM Death Watch, any and all criticism of GM or GM products used to ignite a conflagration of condemnation. The flames soon spread to our coverage of Ford and Chrysler. For several years, TTAC was consistently and persistently attacked as a fundamentally anti-American website. We were considered the enemy within.

Many commentators felt compelled to vent their ire at our [perceived] anti-American bias at the bottom of any editorial that even touched on the subject of a domestic automaker or domestic car. When they were warned to make their point without personally criticizing this website, its authors or fellow commentators; more than a few penned expletive-laden emails accusing me of Stalinist censorship. Not to mention conjecture about sexual relations with farm animals, doubts about my patriotism and good old-fashioned death threats.

As The Big 2.8’s troubles have become evident to all but the most blinkered observers, the majority of our readers have begun to appreciate the fact that TTAC’s take on the American automotive industry isn’t entirely divorced from reality. Of course, our policy of permanently banning flamers has also quieted this little corner of cyberspace. In any case, by and large, our domestic-oriented editorials and car reviews are no longer greeted with a not-so-stately line of flame throwers.

I mustard mitt I was a bit surprised when our Mr. Swanson's analysis of Mr. May's editorial reignited charges of hypocrisy and anti-American bias. Surprised, but not concerned. As I said, we’ve been here before. And at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll repeat myself: TTAC does not have an anti-American car or automaker bias.

Yes, a great deal of our coverage focuses on the foibles and failures of The Big 2.8. For this I make no apologies. The Decline and Fall of Detroit is arguably the most important automotive story of our time. While the media coverage of unfolding events has been generally excellent, I’ve attempted to write, commission and publish articles that look at the lay of the land that little bit harder. That dig that little bit deeper for the truth.

At the same time, it should be noted that TTAC hasn’t spared non-domestic automakers the same scrutiny. We’ve taken Toyota to task for greenwashing, lambasted Lexus for ill-advised line extensions, mocked Mercedes for creating Maybach, bashed BMW for bad branding, and so on. In my more egocentric moments, I like to think that TTAC as the conscience of an industry. The ENTIRE industry: American, transplanted and foreign.

It’s also worth mentioning that TTAC is a catholic (small c) website. We invite submissions from anyone who cares to tap plastic on our behalf. We do not dictate the writer’s editorial perspective, nor reject their work on that basis. There is no “house line” on any given issue. There are enough counterpoint editorials to back up the assertion that we genuinely enjoy genuine debate. And, lest we forget, our comments section is a playground for civilized dissent.

That said, yes, we are a group of like-minded people. Just as CBS' newsroom contains more liberals than a Hollywood madam's black book, the people who regularly write for TTAC share certain values, experiences, perspectives and abilities. But one thing they do NOT share is a bias against American automakers or their products per se.

Peruse our archives for reviews of American cars and you’ll find plenty of praise. Read our reviews of non-domestically owned or produced makes and models, and you’ll see plenty of criticism. NOBODY gets a free ride at TTAC. The fact that so many American cars take it on the chin hereabouts says everything about the cars, and little about our editorial preconceptions.

So why did Mr. Swanson stick it to Mr. May if “we” generally agree about the relative quality of American (i.e. GM, Ford and Chrysler) cars? Because May was saying all American cars suck. Mr. Swanson felt that the criticism was based on anti-Americanism, rather than carefully calculated analysis. More importantly, Mr. Swanson believed it was untrue. As long as I’m at the helm of this website, I will continue to publish work that attempts to expose the truth, regardless of the consequences.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Sep 26, 2007

    Phil, re your last post: The US IS cleaner than 40 years ago, but the things that are cleaner are all things that were easily reversible and didn't threaten civilization in the way that global heating and overpopulation do. Wealth is all good? I don't see the good in 6,000 sq ft houses, or big SUVs, or corn syrup... I could go on and on. You have a lot of misplaced faith in markets. They work, but only when well-regulated. (By the way, when you cite that $1 trillion economy from 40 years ago, is that $1 trillion in 1967 dollars, or in 2007 dollars? I suspect the former, in which case it's more like $5-$6 trillion--not nearly such a drastic jump.) As for factors besides mass immigration dumbing down schools, again, California is 49th, and California has the highest proportion of south-of-the-border immigrants. I'm not disputing that other factors contribute, but when the daughter of a top flight hard scientist and a doctor is the star of the class and at the 35th percentile nationally in a class with 80% immigrants in a college town, you know something is way, way, way out of kilter. Again, on climate change (beating a dead horse, here), the models I've seen from Holdren show clearly that it is anthropogenic. The reasoning is solid, not flawed. (Besides being last years AAAS pres, Holdren is a MacArthur fellow.) The insurance industry seems to agree as well. A handful of scientists out of probably thousands disagree, and if I notice that number rising steadily, significantly over the next few years, I will certainly take note, but I'm not holding my breath. I understand what you say about majority opinion--I know there was a time when most relevant scientists thought continental drift was baloney, but so far I haven't seen anything to indicate that the dissenters have anything solid on their side. And by the way, one of the things about Holdren, unlike some of these climate warming skeptics is that he has no axes to grind. Like you, he's strictly interested in what's right. True objectivity is rare, but he is as objective as anyone I've ever encountered. As for reducing carbon, assuming it's partly anthropogenic, it's so urgent that doing everything possible to slow it down is of the utmost importance ASAP. You're certainly right about solar on the rooftops, but transportation is critical, too. I do like a carbon tax because it lets the market sort out what is most effective, but I'd also advocate subsidized weatherizing (I'm about to spend 5k to take my roof from R-maybe7 to R-40; but a lot of people can't afford this sort of stuff) and maybe solar rooftops as well. I doubt we're headed for 20 degrees either, just because I do'nt think our institutions are THAT stupid. I do think we could easily have some major catastrophes, and that 3-5 degrees could do that. You tend to emphasize the fact that climate is naturally variable. This is taken into account in the models. As for ocean pH, it's trending towards levels not seen in millions of years. Incidentally, when there is more than one possible and rasonable explanation for a phenomenon, and they are not mutually exclusive somehow, I tend to think that both are likely to be operating. You seem to be saying that no significant part of global warming is anthropogenic. Given the obvious physics behind the phenomenon, and the fact that we've about doubled CO2 in the atmosphere, your position seems a little... uh, closed minded perhaps? to me. I challenge you to consider that with an open mind, and let me know what you think after you've had some time to let it percolate. Again, my email, supernova1@aol.com, if you want to communicate after you've given this some time. BEst, --David

  • Maxwelton Maxwelton on Sep 26, 2007

    My only issue with TTAC is that there are those of us who are "libs" who still like cars, and TTAC is pretty rabidly "conservative," which gets tiring. Just look at the unthinking and pandering poke at the "liberal CBS newsroom" in this editorial (like giant CBS isn't as conservative as any other mega-industry). On the other hand, I stop by every once in awhile, so it's not impossibly so.

  • Akear The front reminds me of the Pontiac Aztec, though it does look better than that infamous vehicle. I predict they will sell about 5,000 of these annually.
  • Chris Teague I'm putting the Pilot Sport 4s back on my GR Corolla next week, so all of New England can thank me for the late spring snow storm we'll undoubtedly have right after that.
  • 285exp I am no less interested in buying an EV this year as I was last.
  • FreedMike @Tim Healey: Off topic but this site is becoming borderline unusable from a technical standpoint, and it doesn't matter if I'm using my phone, laptop or Ipad. At some point you can't type anymore.
  • Rochester It depends entirely on the vehicle. Summer-only tires are pointless on a Sentra, but awesome on a Z.
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