Daily Podcast: Press Cars

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I can't remember the last time I drove a press car. Since we added the News Blog, more than quadrupling our content at a single stroke (not literally), I've had precious little time to get my running machine fixed, never mind test drive a press car. Not that carmakers are falling all over themselves making them available. TTAC is still banned from Honda, BMW, all eight brands of GM and Subaru press cars. I'm sure there are a few more that have us on their shit list (my mother's expression). But again, I'm so damn busy tapping these keys on your behalf that I don't have the time to chase PR people for "free" cars. Of course, they're not free, even when they are. Journos who accept a press car are testing a carefully prepared, non-representational vehicle. We've mentioned this before, but it was brought home to me again when Chrysler PR called me– and Chrysler PR never calls me– to find out where Michael Karesh got the leaky Dodge Journey to review. Reading between the lines, someone high up at Chrysler was pissed that we got a hold of a duff press vehicle. Which is why TTAC will continue our [originally unintentional] policy of testing production vehicles rather than press cars. This further separates our reviews from every other media outlet save Consumer Reports. Just to let you know.

Robert Farago
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  • Cavendel Cavendel on Feb 27, 2008
    Sanman111 : I have to say, even if the cars are not hand built, I doubt any manufacturer pulls a random sample of cars for the press fleet. At the very least, I expect they give the car the once over and make sure they pull the best of the bunch. Is anyone doing that with the car that I am driving home? I see your point, but on the other hand, even Honda builds some lemons. If a writer gets a randomly built car and it turns out to be the one lemon in 1000, then that car will get a bad review. It makes sense that a review is done on the best car available. Hand made or somehow optimized beyond the capability of every car off the line is wrong, but making sure the car works in every aspect is acceptable in my view. And I think they are supposed to give your car a once over before handing it to you. Something called "dealer prep" which they are quite happy to charge for.
  • Sanman111 Sanman111 on Feb 27, 2008

    Cavendel, I can agree to a point with your argument. From a performance only standpoint, it really does not matter if they do this. On the other hand, if the focus of the review is intended for the average car buyer (as opposed to the enthusiast), I believe that the chance of getting a lemon as well as the associated dealer service is a large part of the automotive ownership process that also needs to be accounted for. The fact that I rarely hear about press cars having such issues suggests that for some reason this part of ownership is being neglected.This is why I prefer reading long-term reviews. Now, if you want to get into the issue of press cars being tested with every performance option available rather than what the average buyer can find on a dealer lot, I see that as a related as well. Correct me if I am wrong, but don't most of the rags use dealer purchased cars for their long-term reviews? I'm pretty sure Edmunds does.

  • Stephan Wilkinson Stephan Wilkinson on Feb 27, 2008

    The buff books don't buy their cars.

  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Feb 27, 2008

    My experience with press cars is that the local delivery guy/company takes special care and attention to make sure that the press car is 100% mechanically sound and clean as a whistle. I also know for a fact that cars are specially selected for the fleet. It's also true that the slightest mechanical or physical defect is immediately corrected, before the car is handed off to another journalist. The idea that press cars are driven especially hard by journos is something of a myth. While that may apply to sports cars (which, again, are kept in top-notch condition), the majority of mainstream press cars I've driven were cream puffs, despite high miles. At the end of the day, the fact that Chrysler was besides itself with worry that a press car suffered from quality issues tells you that they care a great deal about the condition of cars loaned to journalists. That said, why wouldn't they?