Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend's Arthur St. Antoine Doesn't Own a Car

editorial between the lines motor trends arthur st antoine doesnt own a car

Motown’s top suits are [still] insulated from “the ownership experience.” They drive carefully selected and prepped examples of their own products lovingly serviced by the company’s top wenches. I mean wrenches. The company replaces these perkmobiles before they can prove the old adage that getting older is not for sissies. The execs don’t experience the slings and arrows of outrageous service departments, nor, for that matter, their competitors’ products. They are the bubble boys, accompanied by buff book writers. In this month’s Motor Trend, the chronically undercapitalized arthur st. antoine offers this: “Full disclosure: At the moment, I don’t own an automobile. There are too many test cars, too little time.” So the st receives a new, carefully selected, meticulously prepped and thoroughly maintained press car EVERY WEEK. A full tank of gas, no insurance, no trips to the dealer (ever). None of the hassles of car ownership AND the unexpressed danger that writing something that takes him off the press car gravy train would costs him thousands of dollars per year. Now, about this month’s column . . .

Despite fessing-up to the fact that he doesn’t spend bupkis on personal transportation, st. antoine trots out a mental list of the cars he would buy—you know, if he had to. This for the benefit of party-goers who annoy him with regular requests for the car that he owns, and car makers, who should let his taste inform their manufacturing choices.

Volkswagen GTI – Our own Justin Berkowitz actually spent his own money on a [non press] GTI, and reported the familiar over-familiarity with his Volkswagen dealer’s service department. To say VW has something of a rep for unreliability and no-fun stealerships would be like saying that there are better places to have a steak dinner than The International House of Pancakes. But such considerations are but nothing to MT’s man, who calls the GTI a “no-brainer.” st. antoine warns that the car . . . isn’t the quickest in its class. “Who cares? Not me whenever I have a GTI for a weekend mountain fling.” Lucky you, then.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon – Another car with a rep for unreliability. Not that we worship J.D. Powers’ mob, but the Wrangler notched up a four out of 10 for reliability. Safety is also an issue—for some. Not antoine. “I’d stretch to get a Rubicon ($29,315 base) with all the off-roading can-do, then wrestle with the choice of four doors (the roomy Unlimited makes more sense) or two (looks and feels more authentic to me).” Would it be a stretch to mention the gas the Jeep sucks in the name of slow forward progress?

BMW 335i sedan – Not that he’d gamble his own money on the ownership proposition, but st. antoine reminds us that the “Bahaus sledgehammer scores impressively on those depreciation charts used by accountants charging you $200 an hour to show you how much money you can save. So it actually makes some financial sense.” It must be asked: how much sense and what does HE know about it?

Ford Mustang GT Premium – File this one under TMI: “True, the Camaro likely has the edge in handling and modernity [how’s next Thursday for the loan guys?], but the Mustang is just more ‘me’ (feel free to inject ‘rough around the edges’ here). Where’d I put my Ray-Bans?” No offense to Ray-Bans [note to self: test driving glasses], but Ray-Bans?

Lotus Elise – I’m confused. Does the Elise cap st. antoine’s list of cars he’d own if he had to buy it with his current salary, or if he won the lottery? Is he suggesting that it’s a suitable car if he could STILL have access to all those press cars AND had to spend his own money on Lotus’s motorized tea-tray? No matter how you slice it, the Elise is the love that dare not speak its name—except to Motor Trend’s readers. “The cocktail-partiers don’t get this one. They always expect me to make sense.” Well that confirms it: not only does st. antoine not identify with his readers, he doesn’t hang with them either.

Insider gold, indeed. The cozy relationship between the automotive press and automotive manufacturers is a disgrace to both. The car makers don’t get genuine feedback on their cars (which would help them build more competitive cars), and the press don’t give their readers the truth about cars (which would help them buy better cars). Perhaps the upcoming motown meltdown will create a paradigm shift in the autoblogosphere, freeing both maker and critic to realize that honesty is the best policy.

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  • Tedward Tedward on Apr 16, 2009

    Mr. Truesdell That is a fantastic idea, I'd suggest you link-whore these as much as possible if they keep rolling in (it might just keep everyone from simply stealing the idea).

  • Autotronic Autotronic on Apr 17, 2009

    Ted, Can you contact me off-list? I would like to further explore your idea. You can reach me direct at "richt" at my domain name. Once we connect, we can discuss the idea. I'd like to follow up the MiTo review as quickly as possible as the response to it has been universally positive. What I've noticed here and several other websites and forums, is a high level of knowledge combined with strong writing abilities along with a sense of humor, something that I don't usually use in my own writing. Along the way in my career over the past 15 years I've been mentored by many fine journalists who have helped me get to where I am today, someone who makes a living writing about and photographing cars. Although I've helped other aspiring writers and photographers get started, with my own website, which is so much different than a forum like this, I want when possible to showcase the words and images of passionate enthusiasts to a wider audience. For the record, if I'm not in a press loan vehicle, I'm usually driving my IRM 1984 Fiero Turbo. I also have a 1988 Fiero, three sixties Ramblers (a 1964 American 440 convertible, a 1968 Rogue 2-door hardtop, and a 1969 American 440 station wagon sporting B-scheme SC/Rambler trim), a 1969 Jeep Super Wagoneer, a 1969 Mercury Colony Park station wagon, and a 1988 AMC Eagle station wagon, one of the very last built. If all goes well, and if successful in a near-term eBay auction, I'll be adding a 1981 Alfa Romeo Graduate to my fleet, which I think most here will agree, is a pretty eclectic collection of motorized transport and quite possibly the largest collection of orphans owned by one individual. You'll notice I have nothing even remotely considered late model, thus no huge car payment every month. Rich Truesdell Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler West Coast Contributing Editor, Musclecar Enthusiast and Cars and Parts

  • Teddyc73 The Bronco just doesn't have enough editions and models.
  • ToolGuy @Matt, let me throw this at you:Let's say I drive a typical ICE vehicle 15,000 miles/year at a typical 18 mpg (observed). Let's say fuel is $4.50/gallon and electricity cost for my EV will be one-third of my gasoline cost - so replacing the ICE with an EV would save me $2,500 per year. Let's say I keep my vehicles 8 years. That's $20,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.If the vehicles have equal capabilities and are otherwise comparable, a rational typical consumer should be willing to pay up to a $20,000 premium for the EV over the ICE. (More if they drive more.)TL;DR: Why do they cost more? Because they are worth it (potentially).
  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.