By on April 13, 2009

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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69 Comments on “Editorial: Between the Lines: Motor Trend’s arthur st. antoine Doesn’t Own a Car...”


  • avatar
    niky

    Who in their right minds would hook up with Motor Trend, of all things, for an award selection?

    By the way… I would get a Lotus Elise… if, y’know, I actually DID win the lottery…

    • 0 avatar
      vaffangool

      And how does any publication survive after having named the fifth-generation (1997-2003) Malibu its Car of the Year? [I’m a huge fan of the seventh generation (2008-2012), btw]

      Of the majors published in the US, I’d say Autombile bests C&D, R/T, and MT hands down. While I’d place Motor Trend at the bottom of the heap, they’re both published by Source Interlink. I guess at least it’s evidence that they don’t interfere with their acquisitions.

      You can’t ask a car critic to own an example of every product he reviews–but you can ask him to own one. While one’s standards need to be updated regularly, a fluid frame of reference is no reference at all.

      Waiting for something extraordinary? You can now check Box 1 on NHTSA form HS-7 and bring in an R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R–legally.

  • avatar
    Icanseeformiles

    I’d be interested in hearing more about Justin Berkowitz’s long term ownership experience with his VW GTI. Perhaps TTAC can start running some Long Term Car Tests (if they haven’t already and I’ve just missed them).

  • avatar
    tced2

    There is some information to be derived from a writer who drives a different car every week. He will know how these various models drive and will be able to compare them. He will not be able to give any information on longer term reliability.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Conflicts of interest are a problem inherent with most publications (internet or paper) that focus on a particular product or pastime and the Auto press is certainly one of them. However, I don’t see this list of cars being very controversial – a lot of publications seem to share his views.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Asking Motor Trend to choose a Car of the Year is like asking a goat what to eat….. “Whatever trash they give me”

    I’ve been a car-mag buff since Sports Car Illustrated in the late 60’s but to the best of my memory, I’ve never been able to make myself actually buy a copy of their rag.

    Below is their car of the Year award list from 1960 onward…. It speaks for itself, I think,
    although I’ve highlighted some of MY “what-on-earth-were-they-thinking?” favorites.

    2006 {{{{{{Honda Civic}}}}}}
    2005 {{{{{{Chrysler 300}}}}}}
    2004 {{{{{{Toyota Prius}}}}}}
    2003 {{{{{{Infiniti G35}}}}}} Coupe / Sedan
    2002 {{{{{{Ford Thunderbird}}}}}}
    2001 {{{Chrysler {{{PT Cruiser}}}}}}
    2000 {{{{{{Lincoln LS}}}}}}
    1999 {{{Chrysler {{{300M}}}}}}
    1998 {{{{{{Chevrolet Corvette}}}}}}
    1997 {{{Chevrolet {{{Malibu}}}}}}
    1996 {{{{{{Dodge Caravan}}}}}}
    1995 {{{Chrysler {{{Cirrus}}}}}}
    1994 {{{Ford {{{Mustang}}}}}}
    1993 {{{Ford {{{Probe}}}}}} GT
    1992 {{{{{{Cadillac Seville}}}}}} Touring Sedan
    1991 {{{Chevrolet {{{Caprice}}}}}} Classic LTZ
    1990 {{{Lincoln {{{Town Car}}}}}}
    1989 Ford Thunderbird SC
    1988 {{{{{{Pontiac Grand Prix}}}}}}
    1987 Ford Thunderbird
    1986 {{{Ford {{{Taurus}}}}}} LX
    1985 {{{Volkswagen GTI}}}
    1984 Chevrolet Corvette
    1983 American Motors {{{Renault Alliance}}}
    1982 Chevrolet {{{Camaro}}} Z28
    1981 Chrysler K-cars, Dodge {{{Aries}}}/{{{Plymouth Reliant}}}
    1980 Chevrolet {{{Citation}}}
    1979 {{{Buick Riviera}}} S
    1978 Chrysler, Dodge {{{Omni}}}/Plymouth {{{Horizon}}}
    1977 Chevrolet Caprice
    1976 Chrysler, Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare
    1975 Chevrolet Monza 2+2 V-8
    1974 Ford Mustang II
    1973 Chevrolet {{{Monte Carlo}}}
    1972 Citroen SM
    1971 Chevrolet Vega
    1970 Ford Torino
    1969 Plymouth Road Runner
    1968 Pontiac {{{GTO}}}
    1967 {{{Mercury Cougar}}}
    1966 {{{Oldsmobile Toronado}}}
    1965 Pontiac Motor Division
    1964 Ford Motor Company
    1963 American Motors Rambler
    1962 Buick Special
    1961 Pontiac Tempest
    1960 Chevrolet Corvair

  • avatar
    highrpm

    This is exactly why Car and Driver continually gives BMW the nod in every car comparison test – they never have to deal with the hassle of scheduling repairs, dealing with the slimy warranty folks, or long-term effects of owning a glitchy car.

    The C&D bimmers frequently have some sort of gremlins or glitches and still win.

    Remember when C&D tried to race a pair of BMW 3’s in a 24 hour race? The things were basically breaking down every hour or two. Yet they still win the comparos.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I just read this article in Motor Trend last week. I’d like to see them actually pickup their cars from a local dealer lot at random. It would be much more interesting. Thanks for pointing all this out Mr. Fargo.

    Oh, and in defense of the Jeep… people buy Jeeps for the image and/or what they can do off-road. At least for the previous generation TJ Wrangler, about anyone can work on it in their garage and as an owner, I’ve found that a big plus as few vehicles can be these days. So far mine has been reliable (especially for the abuse off-road it has taken).

  • avatar

    I wish I didn’t have to own a car.

  • avatar
    Slare

    I stopped reading MT quite a long time ago, though I still sub to Car and Driver and R&T.

    Despite its obvious BMW bias, C&D still has some teeth about its reviews and I find the more ridiculous articles amusing. R&T still has some excellent writers.

    From what I remember of MT they just always loved everything and never seemed to offer much not covered by the other two.

  • avatar

    If I could drive press or long-term cars every day of the week, I wouldn’t own a car either. Why throw money at something that’s just going to sit there?

    I’ve never driven the GTI, but knowing family and friends that own VWs, I can corroborate the regular visits to the dealer for problems. I would find it hard to recommend the GTI knowing that.

    I don’t get people’s fascination with the Wrangler. I’m not into extreme off-roading though.

    Also, what’s wrong with Ray Bans? My previous pair of sunglasses were very modern looking, polarized glasses that were great for driving. Now if he had said Wayfarers, that would be different…

  • avatar
    krazykarguy

    st antoine (sic) is the primary reason I let my Motor Trend subscription lapse.

    He has a “holier than thou” edge to his writing style that made reading each and every one of his stories agonizing. Month after month I had to slog through article after butchered article sprinkled with similes that were non-sensical at best.

    He was always assigned the Ferrari reviews, too. Made reading about my favorite Italian autos like stabbing my eyes with a searing hot, rusty fire poker.

    Then he got the editor-in-chief position. I liked the flashiness of Motor Trend well enough to have a subscription for 16 years. No longer.

  • avatar
    grumpydok

    Point taken.

    I’d be interested in hearing your own cocktail party list (although I hope you avoid those). But, in your opinion, if not a GTI, then what?

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Hey, what’s wrong with Ray-Bans? I’ve got a pair and they’re awesome!

    This is a nice little bit of info to have, and funny that he’s stupid enough to admit it. How can you give an honest opinion about any car if you:
    a. Have nothing to compare it to?
    b. Don’t have to live with any of the downside?
    c. Don’t come out of pocket for any of it, including fuel costs?

    I’m seriously thinking about cancelling my sub to MT just based on this alone (although there are myriad other reasons why I should, truthfully). How can I trust a guy, that relies on the courtesy of an automaker for his daily commute, to give me an honest, unbiased opinion on the vehicles he’s “testing”. And furthermore, if he’s just sugar coating his write ups for the manufacturer, then those guys are not going to improve on their blunders. Not when they’ve got good reviews to back up what they’re doing.

    St. Antoine, you should have your own car and live with its faults, pay the payments, and put the gas in it yourself. That’s the only way I think you’ll be able to truthfully be objective when you write reviews. As it is, you’re just a schill for whatever car company happens to be providing your ride. I shall now read every one of your words in a different light, you freaking poseur.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I’ve long term tested a VW GTI (factory ordered) for 36k miles so far. I’ve had an ac compressor and O2 sensor fail. There is a rattle in the center stack vertical vent. Other than tearing my aero kit lip off in October in an unfortunate railroad crossing incident and hitting a deer in March that required a trip to the dealer to adjust the headlights, that is all that I can say is no good with the car. It regularly returns over 32mpg in highway driving (receipts and mileage retained and recorded to a spreadsheet). I gave the interior a good cleaning and it looks showroom new after 2 years and 36k miles. It is a blast to drive and has done as well as expected w/ snow tires crossing the Appalachian mountains when I visit the parents.

    I am really excited about the upcoming Toyota/Subaru RWD Coupe (I had all subarus prior to buying the VW.) My wife refuses to get rid of her MINI Cooper S… ever (which has been an absolute joy to own… perfect reliability). I’m looking to buy a utility vehicle in 18 months, as well, for home improvement type projects. Basically, in order for me to get the Subyota, I’d have to get rid of the GTI. I don’t think I can part with it. The car is just too good. Of course, I don’t know that my antidotal evidence carries the same perceived weight due to the fact that I’m some random unknown on the web. I am an automotive quality engineer that doesn’t work for VW, if that helps.

  • avatar
    cliveh

    One wonders what the writers at TTAC actually own and drive, and why. That would be a much more interesting article than the “reviews” that get published in mags like Motor Trend. At least it would be honest.

  • avatar

    2005 Porsche Boxster S
    2004 Honda Odyssey

  • avatar

    I never ever read the glossies, but I was on a plane last weekend and picked up a Motor Trend for the flight. I remember reading that very article and thinking to myself, “RF would have a field day with that little morsel.”

    It’s true, though, that you cannot get a good purchasing recommendation from someone who will never have to pay for a repair on a vehicle. I think the MkVI GTI is a gorgeous little car, subcompact like I like, comfortable on the freeway, great sporting lineage and performance. I would absolutely get one if I never had to worry about repairs, insurance and gas. But I live in the real world, not auto-journo fantasyland.

    That said, one could argue that any automotive journalist is too immersed to give good purchasing recommendations at all. Even if one doesn’t get press cars, the person who spends day after day thinking and writing about vehicle dynamics and driver engagement starts to ignore the smaller, more important things about auto ownership. Driver engagement is only one facet of ownership – what most people need is a comfortable, reliable car to take them back and forth to their jobs and the grocery store and a few longer trips each year. On the balance sheet, MPG, practicality and low insurance rates generally win out over fun, excitement and engagement, which is why only something like 4% of cars sold today have manual transmissions.

    I lust after the GTI, but I think it would be a damn hard car to love. I know it’s stricken from my next-car list. Automotive journalists can give fantastic insight into which cars are the most exciting and interesting, but the aggregated citizen journalist (ex. message board, review sites w/ user input) is a much better resource for expected ownership experience. That’s why I like fueleconomy.gov so much – it lists the tested mpg expectation and also an aggregated user-experienced mpg numbers. Once you get enough people reporting, that number becomes fairly reliable, once you discount the outliers.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    To some extent a long life spent as a car enthusiast separates you enough from the general public that it can be hard to talk to non-car guys about cars. The little bits of knowledge you pick up inevitably change your viewpoint. I’m talking about things like having actually owned Studebakers, Packards, Rovers, Mercedes, old International pickups; like being able to identify on sight whether a 30’s Packard has a factory or custom body or being able to tell within a few years when nearly any car you’ve never seen before was built; like being able to pull a Ford flathead engine in an hour; like being able to identify what parts and pieces are on a custom car or hot rod…to name a few. It can be a little difficult to relate car-wise to your neighbor who has owned four Corollas in her life.

    People who are in the new-car testing business after a few years are going to get their own viewpoints on cars too…it seems inevitable to me. I’d enjoy doing that for a while; it’s something I’ve never done.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I agree wholeheartedly with the journalism ethics critique, but not at all with your reasons for slamming his hypothetical cars.

    In fact, I’d prefer the GTI, Wrangler, 335 and Elise over most of their class competitors hands down. I might flex for a serious issue (sub in a G37 for the 335 or a MS3 for the GTI for instance) but my starting point would be the class leaders and I would need to research supposed problems myself without just taking the accepted wisdom at face value. A perfect example of this is the VW reliability line…I know quite a few people with new VW’s (a friend gets “friend and family” discounts), none of them is overly familiar with the dealer service center. I’m not going to discount the statistical tools that show they do break down, but I will question how relevant that is to actual ownership experience given what I see. Same goes for the cost of BMW ownership claims, this despite 3 years of complete warranty coverage (I’m aware of depreciation, I’m just saying there’s a fair argument to be had here).

    More importantly what cars would you expect him to recomend? He’s got the dream car-guy job for a reason, and like most of us here that car-guy classification means he’s willing to put up with more grief to get the better car. If he wasn’t I would consider him completely unfit to hold such a position, and would question the judgement of those that hired him. There is a place for (single car) advocacy in car journalism, opinions are requested.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    How do you guys expect the auto mags to cover reliability/dealer friendliness/ownership experience? How can somebody possibly expect a car mag to know how reliable a brand new car is going to be (yes, you can make educated guesses, but they are still just guesses). That’s not the point of these magazines. There are publications like Consumer Reports out there to address those issues

    I think you guys are assigning too much importance to car magazines. Who cares if they review cars with no regard to how they would be to own? No reasonable person is going to just pick up a magazine and base their entire car buying decision off of one article, so why does it even matter? I read car magazines to be entertained, to find out about new cars, and to get some sense of how these cars drive. Whether or not a journalist has a realistic idea of the ownership experience doesn’t affect my enjoyment of an article at all

  • avatar
    bozz

    I did reviews for a decade, using my newspaper’s conflict-of-interest rules that roughly mirror many of TTAC’s notions: I had to own my own car. I had to buy an umbrella liability policy. I couldn’t go on manufacturer-paid junkets. I couldn’t accept anything of value — a meal, a toy replica, a souvenir pen. I filled them with gas before they were picked up. The PR guys would shake their heads when I would remove the data sheets and hand them back their Mark Cross leather portfolio.

    Moral high ground does nothing to solve your bigger issue: a new car or two in the driveway every week.

    When folks ask what’s the best car, it presupposes that you’ve driven them all. To do that, churn is a given. How can a writer tell me that the Malibu sets new standards if he hasn’t driven the Camry or the Legacy? Every mile in your own car is one less in a vehicle you’ll need to write about.

    Not flaming, just asking: What’s the alternative to a week in a press car? And, short of a — of the year award or Top 10 list, how would you draw attention to the cars that merit it?

  • avatar
    eh_political

    On the other end of the scale, RF, there’s Jaimie Kitman, a man who works at least three careers in order to support his love of British and Italian basket cases, and to a lesser extent, his family. He’s a superb writer, does not seem to pull any punches, and his paper on tetra ethyl lead, and the Ethyl corporation should be required reading for TTACers. If memory serves, his face had to be reconstructed after a rollover in a convertible.

    Now that’s street cred.

  • avatar

    bozz

    I’m not against writers driving press cars. As many as they like, as often as they like. BUT–

    1. The vehicle’s origin and junketry should always be disclosed to the readers

    2. The writers should realize that the press cars are usually ringers. They should get ahold of some “normal” dealer fodder from time to time.

    3. They should own a car. There’s nothing like owning a car to keep you connect to the joys and sorrows of… owning a car.

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    Wait . . . you worked at Gaywheels?

  • avatar
    Aeroelastic

    I own a Mk IV GTI, and my friend owns a Mk V. Be both absolutely agree that they are great cars to drive, and we both agree that we will never buy a VW again.

    I love my car, but it’s a heartbreaker. You never know what’s going to go wrong next. My personal gremlin is rain leaks… that happen once and then never happen again. I’ve had it happen three times, and never in the same spot twice.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    See, this is why I dislike many of the buff books. There is no sense of reality in their opinions. Honestly, it is not even the regular loaners that are the biggest issue. It is the ‘fleet’ mentality. I could see some credibility coming from having a car for a week or two and being stuck with it. However, for a weekend jaunt through the mountains? Come on. Yeah an Elise is great for the backroads to the local racetrack and a few laps around the closed circuit. Now sit in it all week in traffic please. Do you still recommend it or is that your chiropractor talking? Things that rarely get talked about are the things I really want to know. What is the best suspension compromise for potholes and the occaisional kick ass backroad? Sure the car is good for weekend drives, but is it tiring in traffic? For a long journey?

    By the way, I would also really like an article about what the ttac authors chose to drive and why.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @dkulmacz: Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I don’t understand why there has to be a product called “Gay wheels.” I keep hearing that (insert your political minority here) wants to be treated exactly the same as (insert your political majority here) because we’re all the same inside.

    I believe that as well.

    So why would a family with two dads or two moms have different needs in a minivan than a family with a mom and a dad?

  • avatar
    wsn

    Lokki :
    April 13th, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Below is their car of the Year award list from 1960 onward…. It speaks for itself, I think,
    although I’ve highlighted some of MY “what-on-earth-were-they-thinking?” favorites.

    2006 {{{{{{Honda Civic}}}}}}
    2005 {{{{{{Chrysler 300}}}}}}
    2004 {{{{{{Toyota Prius}}}}}}
    2003 {{{{{{Infiniti G35}}}}}} Coupe / Sedan
    2002 {{{{{{Ford Thunderbird}}}}}}
    2001 {{{Chrysler {{{PT Cruiser}}}}}}
    2000 {{{{{{Lincoln LS}}}}}}
    1999 {{{Chrysler {{{300M}}}}}}
    1998 {{{{{{Chevrolet Corvette}}}}}}
    1997 {{{Chevrolet {{{Malibu}}}}}}
    1996 {{{{{{Dodge Caravan}}}}}}
    1995 {{{Chrysler {{{Cirrus}}}}}}
    1994 {{{Ford {{{Mustang}}}}}}
    1993 {{{Ford {{{Probe}}}}}} GT
    1992 {{{{{{Cadillac Seville}}}}}} Touring Sedan
    1991 {{{Chevrolet {{{Caprice}}}}}} Classic LTZ
    1990 {{{Lincoln {{{Town Car}}}}}}
    1989 Ford Thunderbird SC
    1988 {{{{{{Pontiac Grand Prix}}}}}}
    1987 Ford Thunderbird
    1986 {{{Ford {{{Taurus}}}}}} LX
    1985 {{{Volkswagen GTI}}}
    1984 Chevrolet Corvette
    1983 American Motors {{{Renault Alliance}}}
    1982 Chevrolet {{{Camaro}}} Z28
    1981 Chrysler K-cars, Dodge {{{Aries}}}/{{{Plymouth Reliant}}}
    1980 Chevrolet {{{Citation}}}
    1979 {{{Buick Riviera}}} S
    1978 Chrysler, Dodge {{{Omni}}}/Plymouth {{{Horizon}}}
    1977 Chevrolet Caprice
    1976 Chrysler, Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare
    1975 Chevrolet Monza 2+2 V-8
    1974 Ford Mustang II
    1973 Chevrolet {{{Monte Carlo}}}
    1972 Citroen SM
    1971 Chevrolet Vega
    1970 Ford Torino
    1969 Plymouth Road Runner
    1968 Pontiac {{{GTO}}}
    1967 {{{Mercury Cougar}}}
    1966 {{{Oldsmobile Toronado}}}
    1965 Pontiac Motor Division
    1964 Ford Motor Company
    1963 American Motors Rambler
    1962 Buick Special
    1961 Pontiac Tempest
    1960 Chevrolet Corvair

    ==========================================

    Very informative.

    Camry and Accord, the cars that forever changed the landscape of American auto industry, are nowhere to be found on this list.

    Probably the D3 management had the same list for cars to look out.

  • avatar

    It’s funny to read car magazines from the early-to-mid 90s and read things like “We chose the $18,500 LX model” or “For our long-term test, we ordered the VX-C with the Leather Package” or “We flew to the deserts of Arizona for our test.” Back then, I believed it. Now that I’m in the biz, I know the truth is that you get what you get and, in the case of a press junket, you go where they take you. And how anyone can glean anything about reliability from a long-termer is beyond me — most are manf-supplied pre-production cars that go straight to the crusher after the mag is done with ’em. (FWIW, I know Edmunds buys some of their long-termers.)

    Anyway, I now disclaim loans and junkets in my review (except some of the short-form ones, where there just isn’t room), as do many other web sites, and I often talk about the junkets in the text of the review — my colleague at our SUVs site did a great job of that in his Q5 review. It’s funny to watch the mags change gear now that the cat is out of the bag.

    While it’s true you can’t glean long-term reliability from a press car — and btw, many are far from pristine — there are things the manf can’t hide, like comfort, convenience, and the ride/handling balance. So as far as I’m concerned, my existence is still justified. :) — Aaron

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    The format of must Buff Book reviews only tells what your 1st choice at the rental counter should be.

    I always thought the Edmunds long term fleet model where they get report on the mileage, upkeep costs and daily livability works well.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Robert
    Does Edward (lost in Vietman) N own a car?

  • avatar
    Kevin

    OK that does it, I’m going to launch a magazine that reviews a different NFL Cheerleader in every issue.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    In the ‘real world’ you’ve got a different list of priorities- and some ‘enthusiasts’ or uh, ‘appreciators’ need practical real world transportation.

    I like how the VW GTI is slower than most V6 family sedans or Coupes. I like the GTI, don’t get me wrong…

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I agree RF, but that’s not surprising because that’s why I am here on TTAC. I understand what Aaron is saying, and I am experienced enough to read into what the regular review is really saying, and what they rarely say. I just don’t think that most people understand all this. I also think that there is a lack of integrity involved because those reviewers know most people don’t get it, but they are afraid that full disclosure would ruin the freebies on oneside, readership on the otherside, and advertising would dissappear at the same time.
    It’s an old game where the people involved live with it because that’s the way it is. All along knowing that it shouldn’t be that way.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Wouldn’t let me edit! Here’s a list I found of the ICOYs. Some real shockers!

    1999 Volkswagen New Beetle
    1998 Lexus GS series
    1997 BMW 5-Series
    1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    1995 Nissan Maxima
    1994 Honda Accord
    1993 Mazda RX-7
    1992 Lexus SC400
    1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
    1990 Nissan 300ZX Turbo
    1989 Mitsubishi Galant GS
    1988 Honda CRX Si
    1987 Acura Legend Coupe
    1986 Mazda RX-7
    1985 Toyota MR2
    1984 Honda Civic CRX
    1983 Mazda 626
    1982 Toyota Celica Supra
    1981 Mercedes-Benz 300SD
    1980 Honda Civic
    1979 Datsun 280ZX
    1978 Toyota Celica
    1977 Mercedes-Benz 280E
    1976 Toyota Celica Liftback
    1971- 1975 No award
    1970 Porsche 914

  • avatar
    kgriff1118

    Wait a minute, InternetCarandTruckoftheYear.com is in NO WAY affiliated with Motor Trend. And, Robert knows the reason I didn’t ask him is because he hates these type of juries. But, he has offered to help in ways that fit his talents, too. (He’s just being modest.) Please, though, we’re not affiliated with Motor Trend. Only Internet outlets were considered for jurors – no buff books here. And, I’m pretty sure, most of the jurors own their own cars.
    Keith Griffin, Founder
    InternetCarandTruckoftheYear.com
    Where Average Joes and Internet Pros Pick the Car and Truck of the Year

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    kgriff,

    But the point is that the jurors are all on the free/prepped/supplied car and junket habit, and I suspect few of them are transparent about it. So, once again, we get some folks making money off an award that misleads the public.

    I don’t like it. Even if the per vehicle cost of supporting all your guys by the manufacturers is only $5, I would rather have it back.

  • avatar

    kgriff1118

    This blog does not suggest a relationship between ICTOTY (the Brits will love it!) and Motor Trend– other than the fact that it’s the SOS in a different wrapper. Which is why I mentioned it.

    And yes, you asked me if I would be a judge for a journalism contest. I see no ethical problem with that.

  • avatar
    kgriff1118

    Robert –
    The blog didn’t mention it. The first commenter did. I was just setting the record straight.

    Landcrusher-
    I can only hope I recover my expenses in setting up this award. Not sure I’m going to make any money off it!
    You’re right, though. Most of the jurors are part of the car/junket habit. I hope most disclose that in their writing. However, because we have 12 jurors, I hope we can overcome the potential of any one juror being swayed by two nights in Santa Monica.

    Thanks,
    Keith

  • avatar
    geeber

    wsn: Camry and Accord, the cars that forever changed the landscape of American auto industry, are nowhere to be found on this list.

    Motor Trend used to give out two awards – one for the “Import Car of the Year,” and the other for the plain, old “Car of the Year” (meaning, made by GM, Ford or Chrysler).

    If I recall correctly, the Accord and Camry have each been named “Import Car of the Year.”

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    @Farago – I’m sorry you had to read Motor Trend to get a story. That’s dedication!

    @cliveh – 1996 Toyota Tacoma (4 cyl, auto, extended-cab)

  • avatar
    akitadog

    I gotta say, the GTI wouldn’t be half-bad to own, at least according to MY ownership experience.
    I’ve had two issue with my 2008 GTI, the iPod adapter had to be replaced, and there was a loose connection for one of the light bulbs illuminating the rear license plate. That’s it. Nothing else.

    Now, I only have just over 15K miles on my car in 14 months of ownership, but I’m not seeing anything that tells me this car is a piece of junk.

    I know that Justin B picked up a 2006 GTI, and that could be the source of his complaints. The 06 was the first model year in the US, and all the baggage that comes with that. I’m not surprised if a chunk of those cars weren’t done right, but it looks to me like VW upped their game by the time I picked up my copy.

  • avatar

    In fairness, I think one of the reasons many of them don’t own cars is that with all the tickets they get testing them, their insurance would be sky high. On the other hand, Jamie Kitman at Automobile has a whole stable full of interesting old cars.

    But yeah, if they don’t own the cars they drive, they are missing out on important parts of the experience.

    The same principal applies to national representatives who don’t have to drive themselves: they don’t understand the population-driven problem of overcrowded roads the way the rest of us do, and so they let us be overwhelmed by mass immigration.

  • avatar

    He’ll own one before too long–the press car free lunch will be ending just about…now. Now. Right…now.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Every car I’ve owned that was fun to drive is a car people here rip for poor reliability (think German). Every brand I’ve owned that people here think is good quality (think Japanese) was the equivalent of drinking warm milk. Are the two (fun and reliability) mutually exclusive? If so, I know which I’ll take, every time.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Jealous much?

  • avatar

    joe_thousandaire

    Right Joe. It’s all about me. I’m bitter and twisted because I’m a loser who couldn’t compete with highly talented writers who score press cars because they bloody well deserve them.

    And I’ve been working on a site called the truth about cars for seven days a week for the last seven years simply to indulge my petty vindictiveness.

    Thanks for setting us all straight.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    ’05 xB
    ’00 Forester
    ’66 Ford F-100
    ’77 Dodge Chinook

  • avatar
    gman37

    In defense of the GTI (I own an 08) the first MKV’s (06) have far more documented problems than the later versions. How many people knocking them have ever driven one?

    And since I am unable to “borrow” a car for a few thousand miles and then return it for free, I will have to take the word of automotive journalists as an opinion on the matter. Even if some of them never actually own a car.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    That’s why I wouldn’t make a good automotive editor or reviewer…too easily bribed by free travel and free food.

    Some magazines do have long term test cars, but they tend to be for very short periods of time and the only updates about them are a paragraph long blurb in the back with that month’s MPG and maintenance cost, next to the Tirerack ads.

    mpresley :
    April 13th, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Every car I’ve owned that was fun to drive is a car people here rip for poor reliability (think German). Every brand I’ve owned that people here think is good quality (think Japanese) was the equivalent of drinking warm milk. Are the two (fun and reliability) mutually exclusive? If so, I know which I’ll take, every time.

    The WRX/WRX STI, Nissan Z, Genesis and Fit are a few cars off the top of my head I can think of that are reliable and fun.

    RF: Your reply to joe…I couldn’t help but snicker out loud on that one.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    What grinds my gears are so-called financial or business journalists who comment on cars without ever mentioning the fiscal condition of manufacturers.

    The largest financial commitment outside of a home is a car – and they can’t give readers a sentence or two of warning about the perilous financial condition of a GM or Chrysler. (Or even Nissan??? )

  • avatar

    The fact that cars like the GTI and BMW — well, any BMW — can be nightmarish to own doesn’t mean they’re undesirable to drive, or even bad designs. Hell, if that were true, all the Italian and British automakers would have gone out of business decades ago. And I’m with the people above who said, “How can a journalist reviewing new cars speak authoritatively on the reliability of a brand-new vehicle?”

    I don’t really see how not owning a car makes him unqualified to talk about the desirability of particular cars…that’s a little like saying if you’re not a captain of industry, you aren’t qualified to have an opinion on a new Rolls or S-class Benz. Granted, I don’t particularly CARE about his list of dream cars, either…it smacks of editorial filler. (“Shit, I have no column for this week…how about I talk about what cars I’d buy?”) Still, my reaction is “so what?”

    And I certainly have a list of cars I’d be interested in if it cost and upkeep were no object (e.g., Alfa Romeo 159), even though I wouldn’t go near them with my own money. I imagine a lot of TTAC readers do, too.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    How do you guys expect the auto mags to cover reliability/dealer friendliness/ownership experience? How can somebody possibly expect a car mag to know how reliable a brand new car is going to be (yes, you can make educated guesses, but they are still just guesses).…

    I always laughed at the self proclaimed experts who lease a new car every three years and tell me what is reliable and what is not. I always reply by telling them if they never see the upper reaches of the odometer, they are in no position to discuss reliability. This, of course, just makes the “experts” annoyed and they always reply with a “fortunately I can afford not to keep a car for so long” I get the last laugh; they waste their money. I don’t.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Even when I was a kid I would pick up a Motor Trend issue at a magazine rack and wonder how something about cars could be so horrible.

    Since the mid-90’s (my initial frame of reference) the magazine has been unreadable.

    Despite its completely substandard past MT is still managing to set new lows with this guy.

    This douche bag (the term has become overused and cliché, but nothing fits better in this case) may get to drive better cars than us for free, but, as small consolation, we get to read substantially better writing than his for free thanks to the internet.

  • avatar
    niky

    ihatetrees:

    The largest financial commitment outside of a home is a car – and they can’t give readers a sentence or two of warning about the perilous financial condition of a GM or Chrysler. (Or even Nissan??? )

    Hey, I’ve owned/driven several Nissans… and only one of them smelled… lemony… unfortunately for Nissan, it was the last one we had… which is why it was the last one we had.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    It was posted eons ago on this page, but add me to the group that let my MT subscription lapse never to be renewed again.
    I have a C&D subscription until the end of time (or 2013 I think) but Automobile has turned into my favorite due to their writing style and their “no one else tests like this” style.

    Onto reviews and what the automakers do to get a positive one…
    The clincher for me was when the 4-door Wrangler came out and flew everyone under the sun out to Zambia so they could offroad in some of the harshest terrain out there.
    Now…I speak from experience here – I’ve been to Zambia and know the costs/hassle of getting in/out/around there. A car company already in severe financial trouble spent ungodly amounts of money to ship cars, gear, supplies, parts, and people to middle of nowhere Africa just to get some positive reviews on a vehicle that wouldn’t sell well with expensive fuel.
    That just smacks the side of my head with sheer insanity and appears to have been a ton of money wasted. But hey…they got some positive writeups on a crude Jeep!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Well, this is not surprising in the least to me!

    If you ask 100 MSM financial reporters, editors, or anchorbabes/anchormen, I’ll bet less than 5 are actually investors.

    They make it out like they know it all. Like when they say that when futures are up, it looks like a good day in the market.

    Or like when they keep saying buy or hold when the market is down 20%, then 30%, then 40%.

    Or fat sportscasters or health editors who still smoke.

    I call bullshit on the whole lot, including this “saint” who is no better!

    Buy a GM and start getting warranty work done five, ten, fifteen times for the same damned issue already! I’d like to see him sitting at that little table in the damned waiting area in the service department, and I’d like to see the stupified look on his face when the “service manager” tells him the price for the repair because it’s “not covered by our bumper-to-bumper” warranty.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Didn’t mean to draw you ire r.f. – I supposed I just failed to grasp the intent of your article. I grew up reading buff-books, and I always wanted to be one of those guys. You show up in your ray-bans and someone hands you the keys to latest supercar for some top speed runs and a photo shoot on a secluded stretch of desert tarmac. This is a juvenile fantasy Motor Trend is well aware of, and is more than willing to sell. Thats really the whole point of their (and st antoine’s) existence. So if you aren’t jealous then I am, or at least my inner sixteen year old is.

  • avatar
    Leha

    >mpresley :
    >Are the two (fun and reliability) mutually >exclusive? If so, I know which I’ll take, every >time.

    No.
    I have a 07 WRX STI. Reliable. Damn fast.
    Drives well in winter – I live in Colorado and 6 month of the year is winter.
    FWD GTI is not a starter, no thanks.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    Art St. Ant bears a striking resemblance to Troy Queef, legendary Sniff Petrol scribe.

    Separated at birth?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    FlyersFan,

    I too am impressed with Automobile.

    For whatever reason, it seems to have really raised its game in just the last year or two. Good writing and provocative opinions (especially Kitman, Ezra Dyer, and Cumberford). Other than comparison tests, that’s a big part of the formula that put C/D at the top for all those years.

    Though I can’t talk about quality writing in a car magazine without giving C/D’s Phillips a shout-out.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    tony – you picked up on that also! In the past year, they’ve had Mongolia, Patagonia, the excellent NYC write-up with the small cars, the drives through Europe, and I still liked the very well written write-up on the “Cars You Can’t Have Here” issue.
    I’m glad they don’t go overboard on comparison tests as those tend to show the most bias. I found they present what’s in front of them, and do so in a very professional and attractive way.
    …and the limo trip article still cracks me up.

  • avatar

    joe_thousandaire : You show up in your ray-bans and someone hands you the keys to latest supercar for some top speed runs and a photo shoot on a secluded stretch of desert tarmac. This is a juvenile fantasy Motor Trend is well aware of, and is more than willing to sell.

    That’s really the whole point of their (and st antoine’s) existence.

    Oh goodness, I sure hope there’s more to Automotive Journalism than pointless junkets, unattainable super cars and toothless write ups of below average performers at every price point.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Is there something wrong with the Elise? Seems like a hot car to me.

  • avatar
    autotronic

    As an automotive journalist myself as well as the editor/owner of my own website, and having contributed to Motor Trend in the past, I read this thread with more than passing interest.

    Today, prior to reading this thread, I started something new on my website, a road test/driving impression submitted by someone who actually paid for his car, in this case a new Alfa Romeo MiTo. While the owner in the UK only had 2,000 miles on the clock, that’s 1,900 miles more than one gets at a press launch or 1,500 miles more than I’ll typically put on a week-long editorial loan, thus I think that his observations are at least as valid as mine, with respect to reviewing a particular vehicle. (I initiated this process as the means to publish a comprehensive review of a vehicle that I expect will be among the first Fiat Group products to come to the US if the Chrysler-Fiat deal goes through.)

    As things move forward, I’ll continue to tweak the process. But if I can continue to get well written and photographed user-supplied content to fit the format, I plan to continue the series. I plan on first concentrating on vehicles not readily available here in the US, a series of “guilty pleasure” reviews, then move on to mainstream vehicle reviews. Anyone want to suggest a vehicle to review? Interested in contributing a review?

    If you care to take a look, and comment, here’s a link to the MiTo review:

    http://automotivetraveler.com/jump/464

    Rich Truesdell

  • avatar
    tedward

    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).

  • avatar
    autotronic

    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

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