American Journalism Review Condemns Car Review Standards, Applauds TTAC

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Please excuse the self-congratulation, but little breakthroughs like this are a big deal for a site like TTAC. The American Journalism Review has a fantastic piece by Frank Greve on the murky and corrupted world of professional car reviewing, which is well encapsulated in the piece’s subtitle

The world of car reviewing is replete with expensive perks and fantasy vehicles. Consumer advocates need not apply.

And after running through the litany of corruptions endemic in the system, Greve concludes:

Web sites like Jalopnik and The Truth About Cars deliver more independent, aggressive and timely coverage for car enthusiasts than traditional car magazines like Motor Trend.

With all due respect to MT (which is but one of many), that sounds like the truth to me. As does Greve’s description of how press cars are allotted (by the likelihood of a positive review). And for one of his examples of the system at its worst, Greve describe an incident involving TTAC’s own Jack Baruth and the aftermath of his no-holds-barred review of the Porsche Panamera.

After describing the fawning reviews for the Porsche Panamera produced by sites like Autobytel and New Car Test Drive, the AJR piece continues

One freelance reviewer sang off key, however: Jack Baruth, a racer of Porsche 911s, and “a known malcontent” by his own admission. Baruth crashed a Panamera event for reviewers at the Road America track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and reached a damning-by-faint-praise conclusion. “More fun to drive than any other four-door sedan,” Baruth declared in a five-minute video for LeftLane But the Panamera “couldn’t be any less like a 911,” he added. Although Baruth, a Web reviewer popular for his audacity, had previously gotten along with Porsche publicists, he’s been a nonperson with the automaker ever since.

Fong says there was nothing personal about Baruth’s exile. “One of the key questions we ask is whether a reviewer writes for a demographic that can afford a Porsche,” he says.

Baruth draws a different lesson from the experience: “Carmakers can make you noncompetitive,” he says.

Well, Mr Fong, as someone with access to TTAC’s Google Ad Planner data, let me be the first to inform you that 50% of TTAC’s readership makes $75,000 or more per year (congrats, folks!). 20% make $100k or more. So what do you say Mr Fong, do we get to review new Porsches now… or are you still as afraid of editorial independence as the AJR makes you out to be? And before you answer, remember this: with every piece like this, the walls of OEM control over editorial independence crumble a little more… and the sooner they fall down, the better.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Jeffzekas Jeffzekas on Sep 04, 2011

    I came really close to buying a Porsche... but I kept hearing disturbing reports about expensive repairs and major mechanical failures... So, thank god for TTAC! Whilst all the other car magazines were praising the Porsche, there was this one blog giving contrary information... needless to say, after my son bought a Boxster (and disposed of it, four days later, due to a bad motor), I was cured of my Porsche interest... and yes, I make enough money to buy the sportscar "Engineered for magic"... But I am done falling for expensive, breakable cars... Do I want a fun vehicle? Yes. Pricy and unreliable? No. And yes, many years ago, I actually believed that the car magazines were unbiased and accurate... so, I assume some folks STILL believe in the "objectivity" of rags like Car & Driver and Road & Track!

  • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Sep 07, 2011

    Jack made one inexcusable mistake. He said an A8 is better than a Panamera. I guess you had to be in that world for an extended period to understand the seriousness of the crime committed ....

  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later