Daily Podcast: Weeklong Testing

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As Robert posted below, TTAC is redoubling its efforts to get timely road tests by reaching out to the very manufacturers we lay into on a daily basis. But why, you might ask, would these giant firms feed the mouth that bites them?

The simple answer is that auto writers provide one single commodity to the manufacturers: credibility. With the rise of blogs and social media, consumers are seeking and finding the most credible sources for reviews without the industry’s traditional advertorial filter. This outsourcing of PR duties to reliably sycophantic writers and publications may prevent a certain number of negative reviews, but it also robs positive reviews of their power.

GM’s so-called “perception gap” illustrates this syndrome perfectly. The General regularly cites rave mainstream reviews as evidence of the superiority of certain models, while noting that these accolades have made little impact on the buying public. Instead of merely complaining about this phenomenon, isn’t GM even remotely curious as to why this happens? The obvious answer is that auto writers must earn the trust of their readers in order for the manufacturers to earn the trust of consumers.

Outlets which reject collusion or cozy relations with automakers may seem angry or biased in contrast with the puffy prose of old-line auto journalists, but at least they still offer the credibility that the manufacturers were seeking in the first place. As competitive as the market for cars is, isn’t it time for automakers to accept that courting real credibility inevitably carries risk?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Werewolf34 Werewolf34 on Jul 20, 2009

    I think in this hostile market for new cars, any chance that TTAC generates incremental sales would be a good thing. And it's not like the car co's aren't sitting on huge inventories. I say get the cars. Let me know if you need a 2nd opinion on the Porsche testers.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jul 20, 2009

    "One needs to only look at the one star review at the recent prius .... " Only if you are playing tic-tac-toe does it work out that way. Look at it like a chess game and everything changes. Readers who would never consider buying a Prius would read the one star review and go "Hell Yea!". Which doesn't matter, because they never would have considered a Prius anyway. But, readers who in fact are in the target market the Prius is after are likely to read the review and go "Oh yeah, that writer is an idiot, I'll show him!". There seem to be precious few really smart chess players in the automotive marketing game. Many seem to care more about their careers and playing bush league office politics than they do about actually growing brands over the long haul.

  • Ronman Ronman on Jul 21, 2009

    a week long test should definitely be the standard. even with experience there are things that you cant pick up in a day, the imperfections start dawning on you as the car matures in your hands. I also second the fact that TTAC should maintain driving dealership cars, but when given the chance of a manufacturer sponsored launch there is no harm in reviewing a first take. even with the prepped press cars, you can pick up a few fundamental faults, and the driving by experience is not all that different, because then the manufacturers would be marketing different cars than what they are selling. you would have to excuse some imperfections, after all they are humans behind them

  • Steven Lang Steven Lang on Jul 21, 2009

    With the 800+ miles of driving I usually do during the week, I'd be happy to put a newer steed to good use. TTAC should get weekly testers. It's very hard to get a really clear picture of a vehicle from a dealer test drive. A longer period of time, possibly with even more than one tester (at least three of us writers now live in shooting distance with each other) would add a lot more perspective to the reviews.