Ask the Best and Brightest: American Car Mags RIP?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I recently received an email from the now bi-weekly AutoWeek offering me a FREE YEAR! “Now, for a very limited time, you can take advantage of our lowest rate ever. For just $19.95, you can enjoy TWO YEARS (52 issues) of your favorite magazine! That’s 90% off the retail rate–just 38¢ per issue!” Despite “bi-weekly race results, news straight from the auto show floor and unbiased editorial reviews,” I’m holding out for the last 10 percent discount, and the removal of the two-year requirement. That’s not as strange as it sounds; we’re getting reports that Car and Driver subscribers are getting the buff book long after they’ve let their subs expire. Subscription income sacrificed on the Alterman of advertising? Perish the thought! Meanwhile this from Automobile: “An exclusive limited-time offer has been reserved for you from Automobile Magazine. Through October 9, you can get a full year of Automobile for only $10! That’s $49.88 off the cover price – an 83% savings!” Clearly, these guys are toast. The question is, what, if anything will replace them? Personally, I think it’s the ideal time to start a new car magazine; one that redefines the genre with coffee-table compatible paper stock, world-class photography and scintillating, insightful reviews and features (a la The Rodders Journal). Or is it time to stick a fork in the whole car mag thing?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Mpresley Mpresley on Oct 03, 2009
    Rada :Passat is like an Audi? LOL. Other than the fact that they are both owned by the same company, use the same engines, offer similar 4 wheel drive systems (at least in Germany), shared a platform and about 40% of the components (B5 edition), and so forth. So, yes, they are "like" each other. I did not say they were identical. Hell, my Audi 90 had VW/Audi parts identified under the hood.
  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Oct 03, 2009

    Rada : "October 3rd, 2009 at 6:17 pm The car mags are dying because the car culture is dying. When most people are stuck for hours everyday in traffic, glowing reviews of a yet-another roadster on a “twisty mountain road” seem less and less relevant. The world is quickly turning to frugality, and watching out for the bottom line. The economic crisis reminded everyone of limits to artificial credit-fueled growth, and things like cost of ownership, practicality, and fuel economy are coming to the foreground. The era of cheap oil is gone, and with it – the decadence that was the car culture." Ah yes, Rada... but conditions were similar (not exact, but similar) in the mid 1970's. We had the first of two Arab oil embargoes, the price of gasoline tripled within months - and fuel was even RATIONED. This resulted in a 55 mph federal speed limit. The economy was on the ropes - a deadly combination of high unemployment, low growth and staggering inflation (on the order of 14 percent a year). As if that wasn't enough, federal auto emissions and safety standards brought automakers (both foreign and domestic) to their knees in terms of product. It was a very bad time to be an auto enthusiast. But it was in this environment that Car and Driver solidified its reputation and became the dominant U.S. auto magazine. Why? Great writing and absolutely no fear when it came to taking on the government and automakers. And a great sense of humor in dealing with reality head-on. It was in the middle of this scenario that C/D brought us the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Things like this could be done then and can be done now - with the right people and enough readers to appreciate it.

  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Oct 03, 2009

    Car mags are dying because most print media is dying. I can learn more in less time online. I stopped reading Motor Trend because it was such deadly dull reading. I dumped Car and Driver because every issue was the same. I don't have to read Hot Rod Magazine or any of its dopplegangers because I can see just as good cars at a local cruise night. But there are some bright spots. Hemming's Classic Cars/Muscle Cars/Sports and Exotic Cars, are very good pubs aimed at a niche market.

  • Accs Accs on Oct 18, 2009

    I have just cut off my last American car mag.. R & T.. Ive had it for the past 15yrs.. and I enjoyed it cause I thought it was honest. Then again.. I also used to spend 100bux at Borders & B/N monthly. I also used to buy the largest amounts of car mags during September / October.. during autoshow / car show concept show season. Now.. its either all online.. or virtually everything new I have some SERIOUS beef with (SUVS / CUVS crossovers of some kind). R T used to never test SUVS / CUVS.. they do now. C n D lost it.. by having the Accord rule their midsized testing routines. Automobile and Motor trend are now one in the same (I believe) And on top of all that... Thumbing through my last issue of R T had more fluff for Tire Rack or the cargo mat companies.. I could have used IT as my wipe of pleasure...