By on August 31, 2015

2012 Tesla Model S

Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins (great name) slammed Consumer Reports for its glowing review and better-than-perfect score for the Tesla Model S P85D, in part, because the $127,000 car still qualifies for a government tax break.

“Prostitute is not too strong a word,” he wrote. “… (Consumer Reports) is shilling not only for the car but the government policies that subsidize it.”

Jenkins takes aim at the state and federal tax incentives still available for the vehicle — which are going away in many places — and at the magazine for hyping its review so heavily, and subsequently giving it away for free on its subscription-based website.

Jenkins’ point is re-enforced by the fact that Consumer Reports sent to media an embargoed statement summarizing their review the day before it was published, which is unusual for the consumer magazine.

Included in the statement:

“The P85D represents a glimpse into the future of automotive technology in which cars will be more energy-efficient than ever, while still delivering a terrific blend of performance and practicality,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing in the statement. “The Tesla is a shining example of how higher fuel economy standards can be achieved without sacrificing performance.”

Jenkins aimed at that performance by saying that if Consumer Reports was concerned with energy efficiency, it wouldn’t hype the battery draining “insane” and “ludicrous” speed modes in its review.

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96 Comments on “Columnist: Consumer Reports ‘Prostituted’ Itself With Tesla Review...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The government’s policy for EV subsidies has nothing to do with the quality of the car or its recommendation.

    CR’s rating system is flawed because it shouldn’t produce scores over 100, probably because it omits some areas that matter to some people.

    As for battery-draining ‘ludicrous’ driving, it can’t be done for very long. The car still gets something like 86 MPGe – better than any gas car.

    Does this guy complain about Hellcat power, even though it can only be used for seconds at a time?

    • 0 avatar
      Ron

      +1

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that the presence or absence of Govt subsidies is not relevant to the story. That’s nothing but link bait.

      It maybe too harsh to say CR rating system is flawed. A car has come out that is a game changer and does quite literally go ‘off the charts”. I don’t have an issue CR having to readjust their ratings system. The rating system may have simply become obsolete rather than ‘flawed’.

      It is unclear to me at this point how they will make changes going forward. Will they have “pre 2015” ratings that will be frozen in time, and all new ratings will be based on additional criteria? That makes comparisons between pre and post 2015 ratings difficult and maybe meaningless. The alternative is to readjust all previous ratings on a new scale which also causes confusion because some cars will have been issued two ratings. I’d hate to be them (CR).

      What is remarkable is that a car has been made that does move the needle on what a top of the line car is. It’s a quantum leap. All this with the first mass produced car that Tesla has made. I wonder where they will move the needle to as they get better at designing and making cars? CR may have to readjust their ratings system *again* sooner rater than later.

      The Washington Posts position that CR are to be criticized because they praised insane and ludicrous performance options in a “fuel efficient” car is just plain silly. The Model S is a performance sedan, the fact that it is also very fuel efficient is just another marvel. That’s CR’s point, it can and is both performance and fuel efficient at the same time. Brilliant.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        JPWhite,
        I do agree with the development of technology. I actually an ardent supporter of this.

        But, to state that the vehicle is a game changer whilst stating the government assistance to get into one is quite incorrect.

        If there was no government assistance where would this vehicle be? There is every chance Melon wouldn’t of even attempted to produce the Tesla.

        Your comment is akin to stating the Space Shuttle was a game changer in Aerospace. It wasn’t. The Dreamliner, A380, etc are. These have had a far greater impact on the aerospace industry than the Shuttle. Granted technologies have be transferred across from the Space Program to the private sector.

        I do believe some form of register should be made so all have access to any company/idea that is supported by “welfare, subsidies, handouts, etc”. This is to allow others’ to gain the use of taxpayer funded/subsidised innovation/inventions.

        This will free up industry, accelerate development/invention/innovations to create a more competitive market and most likely reduce the cost of EVs. The consumer will win and the use of tax dollars used for all, not just one business.

        If you want to socialise industry, do it properly, not in way to produce billionaires on tax dollars like Elon Melon.

        I do believe that the EV industry should not be subsidised or support with government monies. The people who generally buy these vehicles are generally wealthy enough to purchase another vehicle.

        Why should the poor slob flipping burgers pay taxes to subsidise the better off? This is a form of middle class welfare, and the poor slob flipping burgers is driving a clapped out 15 year old car.

        The best option is, if Tesla can’t support itself without government handouts/subsidies then the Tesla EV isn’t ready to be sold.

        • 0 avatar
          smowe

          Government should be free to subsidize new technologies to encourage their adoption and growth when there is a public good to doing so, especially when business success is so dependent on scale like it is in the auto business. I am happy the US government is encouraging the adoption of zero emissions vehicles and don’t really care if luxury brands take part in it alongside entry level. What does that matter?

          Reducing carbon emissions in power generation, agriculture and transportation are critical if we’re going to get our climate problem under control. I don’t understand how someone could have an issue with incentivizing that.

          • 0 avatar
            mchan1

            Feel free to donate your ENTIRE salary to Tesla and other companies.

            Tax credit Originate from tax dollars from other taxpayers!

            If you don’t understand that, then you’re the one that needs schooling in finance/taxes/business!

        • 0 avatar

          In terms of government assistance it can be seen two ways.

          One is the purchase incentives offered to drivers/taxpayers. $7,500 discount from a $100,000+ purchase is nice but hardly of pivotal importance in the purchase decision.

          Another is the direct subsidization of the corporation (Tesla). Yes there was a govt loan which Musk paid back in double quick time in order to get away from anticipated criticisms such as yours and interference the govt might introduce while it had a stake in the company. The cash injection Dailmer made was the most important in Tesla’s history, the govt loan was important but not in the league of life saving. Tesla is getting by on raising its own cash from stock sales, commercial loans and partnerships.

          http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1074375_elon-musk-daimler-saved-tesla-doe-loans-a-bad-idea

          Tesla doesn’t depend on a taxpayer handout.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> If there was no government assistance where would this vehicle be?

          What vehicles can you buy in the US that haven’t received government (either federal or local) assistance? I’m curious.

        • 0 avatar
          marman

          “The Dreamliner, A380, etc are” You do realize both of those received heavy taxpayer subsidies, right? The loan guarantees Tesla received, were paid back early and with interest. The tax credit is just that a credit….your own money you get back. If you do not pay enough in federal tax to cover it you do not get the full credit.

          I am fine with _all_ subsidies going away…lets start with the fossil fuel industry, banking, farming, boeings bank (EXIm), ok?

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not a game changer, it’s still a niche vehicle. It can’t be driven where-ever you want, whenever you want, because of the limited range and the long refueling time. I frequently take road trips in the northeast and mid-atlantic where I would not be able to take the Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      +2

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “The government’s policy for EV subsidies has nothing to do with the quality of the car or its recommendation.”

      So, you don’t reckon Honda could make the Civic just a wee bit “better”, if they could count on being able to charge $40K for it, instead of $20K, with non buyers being forced to pay for the difference?

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Yeah, Jenkins makes a number of good points– how can you use the words “glaring omission at this price point” while giving a product a score greater than 100?

    CR took their eye off the ball, and Jenkins rightly called them on it. It’s probably unlikely that all of their shilling will affect their reputation, but maybe it should.

  • avatar

    I will say that CR’s language seemed quite flowery and overdone, compared to their norm. I have come to expect a much more neutral language from them, no matter how good or bad, and I don’t think what they wrote reflects well on them when it comes to being perceived as the neutral, fair, numbers-based car reviewers.

    That said, the Wall Street article seems overwrought.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Overwrought? Surely you’re not suggesting Rupert Murdoch would publish something irresponsible in order to bash government policies toward business that he dislikes.

      Gracious me. This is shocking.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Of course the WSJ is overwrought. They have a political axe to grind with the Consumers Union, because they advocate protecting and informing consumers, which is not always in the interest of their political and financial patrons.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Consumer Report’s scoring system has never, ever, taken price into account as part of the formula for determining a score. They did not willfully ignore the Tesla’s price or the presence of government subsidies, they simply don’t use pricing at all. (They have the “Best Buy” designation for vehicles that score decently enough, are reliable, and that they believe to be a good value, but it’s separate from the numerical score.)

    Interestingly, they ALSO don’t feed in reliability into the numerical score. The line on their charts has a “bubble” for the measure, it’s used for deciding if a car is “recommended”, and it feeds into their “Good/Bad Bets” for used cars, just not the number.

    And saying that CR “Prostituted” themselves makes no sense at all… that would be the case if they took money from Tesla for the review, but like all their reviews, they did not. (They used to buy all their cars from dealerships instead of using press-fleet loaners; don’t know if they still do that.)

    It is certainly the case they hyped the heck out of this review, and it more illuminates brokenness in the scoring system than anything else (in the same way that a plug-in hybrid breaks the EPA’s MPG calculations.) But CR is not guilty of most of what this article accuses them of.

    • 0 avatar

      They double-up on the car front these days.

      They’ll post “first-take” videos based off of the press loaners, and then purchase a vehicle (or vehicles) from a dealer (or dealers) for the actual testing, which is what they base their scoring off of.

      So, while they do benefit from the loaners (it allows them to produce content about cars at approximately the same time as other media sites, rather than a long time afterwards), they don’t base any of the testing off of it.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Looks like Mr Jenkins needed something to write about. CR doesnt get anything from praising a car. Do you know how many cars that cost 120 plus grand that are flawed. ALL OF THEM.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      Despite being a CR subscriber and someone who would love to own a Tesla, I have to admit that I’ve found it a bit odd that they give a car with many glaring faults (including, by their own admission, only average reliability) such a high score.

      Perhaps this is the same system that lets high school students these days claim a 4.0 GPA, despite achieving only Bs in AP classes. “Yeah, you didn’t do that great, but you tackled a slightly harder course-load, so we’ll ignore that your failings.”.

      But in my opinion, the “highest score ever” should be given to a car with exceptional handling, exceptional reliability, exceptional styling, and exceptionally safety characteristics. That the Tesla accomplishes one or two of those things while not bombing on the others makes it a pretty good car. Maybe worth of a genuine B. But not best car ever.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        For whatever reason, CR does not feed either price or reliability into the numerical score. They DO use price when deciding to bestow a “Best Buy” mark, and reliability goes into “recommended”, “Good/Bad Bets” as used cars.

        The numerical score is solely determined by their testing process for the car; mileage, acceleration, braking, interior, etc. (This actually mirrors the practice of other car review publications, which ALSO usually do not use pricing or reliability as part of their scoring or ranking systems.)

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        I believe they recommend the Golf and GTI even though those cars have had questionable reliability history

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          I feel I say this every time someone brings up these incongruities in CR’s ratings because CR makes it very clear why they rate how they rate.

          Here is how CR works:

          1. They have two ratings scales, one for Performance (which this Telsa tops, and which the Golf does well on) and one for Reliability (which the Toyota Yaris does well in).
          2. To get a Recommended badge, the car has to perform well, and have at least average reliability, and not have any glaring safety issues (like a really bad crash rating). It also needs enough responses to rate (which the Telsa has, despite it’s price).
          3. An open safety recall results in a Recommended model losing said recommendation. This was added in response to Pedalgate.

          This is why they do not recommend the Yaris (because it doesn’t perform well) but do recommend the Golf (which, while not being as reliable as the Yaris, isn’t really awful, either)

          Price doesn’t really come into it, except that it usually means that more expensive cars aren’t tested and/or reported on. The P85D is an exception.

          CR’s ratings scales generally work well, except for the aforementioned Tesla, which is as fast as a supercar without requiring the comfort or economy compromises that a supercar would typically require. It’s also more reliable than super-sedans in this price range: whatever you might say about the P85D, it’s less expensively cantankerous to run than a S63 AMG or a 760Li.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The CR rating system and its separation from the reliability survey are not complicated concepts. Why the TTAC crowd can’t figure this out is beyond me.

          • 0 avatar

            We really need a tool for upvoting comments, because this deserves a lot of them.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “The CR rating system and its separation from the reliability survey are not complicated concepts. Why the TTAC crowd can’t figure this out is beyond me.”

            Because too many of them have been hoodwinked by the right wing into making every single thing that happens into yet another Undisputable Example Of Encroaching Communism.

            Tesla gets it because of the tax breaks.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “The CR rating system and its separation from the reliability survey are not complicated concepts. Why the TTAC crowd can’t figure this out is beyond me”

            Because most people don’t actually know what the CR ratings system actually is.

            They have an impression of what they believe it to be, and hey, setting up strawmen is fun.

            ETA: I personally think it’s a combination of sour-grapes (about how CR dared besmirch American Capitalism) and anti-intellectualism (liberal media, progressivist agenda, precious bodily fluids, etc) and hurt feelings (how can you treat $object_of_my_desire like an $commodity_good)

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            An American car, produced by American workers, being the highest-rated car on CR EVER?

            There must be something “un-American” about this.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Prostitution? Ethics in car journalism?

    Sigh, someone send Mr. Hoover Institute some Baruth articles:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/how-to-be-an-auto-journalist-part-i-the-press-drive/
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/how-to-be-an-automotive-journalist-part-ii-the-press-loaner/

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Please….

    Consumers Reports is a waste of time. I’ve followed there “Recommendations” and been burned. Whatever they says is best is the one that pays them the most.

    I don’t buy one word of the story that they are impartial

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      For all of the imperfections in the CR review process, I don’t believe there’s ever been any credible evidence that they’ve accepted bribes from any manufacturers of products they test. (And they don’t, and never have, accepted ads.)

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      Do you have any reason to believe that manufacturers pay them anything at all? They claim not. If you have evidence to the contrary, that would be quite the scandal.

      Maybe it’s ads. Oh wait, they don’t have ads.

      So how exactly are these mysterious payments being funneled to Consumer Reports?

      Or are you simply making up accusations with no basis in reality, because you bought a dishwasher that eventually broke?

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      They aren’t impartial – of that there is no question. Anything Toyonda and they are gushing praises (ok, Yaris, sure, its a penalty box).

      Like Honda lawn mowers – they work only so-so, have heaps of carb and power drive axle troubles, are wicked expensive, but still somehow get the top ratings at CR. Because Honda. You have to read deeply in the mower forums to learn otherwise (or talk to your local lawn mower repair shop).

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        The Honda mowers rate well, because just like the cars, the reliability IS. NOT. PART. OF. THE. SCORE. For whatever their mechanical faults, the Honda mowers cut well. The reliability issues come out in the reliability surveys, which always accompany articles with ratings.

        (And asking repair shops is a terrible way of gauging reliability. They are good for Cost-Per-Repair, yes. Reliability, no. (Repair shops rarely have any insight into the marketshare of a particular brand in the area.))

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          I’d say that someone that dropped $400 on a push mower is more likely to actually get it repaired correctly at a shop. I looked at repairing the last mower I had, but the head gasket kit was $70 and the mower was $110 new. It certainly wasn’t worth having someone else do the work at part prices that high.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          But here’s the thing (I have owned about 75 walk-behind mowers so I have used them all) – they DON’T cut that well. I have a current-generation plastic-decked Honda, the previous-generation plastic deck model, and two steel-decked models. My brother also had two Hondas and he ditched them for 20-year-old John Deere 14PBs.

          If you want a mower that really cuts and bags well, a Jacobson/Homelite Super-Bagger (made from 1970s – 1990s, made lastly under the Echo name) is about as good as they get. Or a Toro with the Vacu-power deck (no longer made). And the 1990s John Deere 14xx or JXxx series mowers are about the best out there for cut quality. The 2-cycle alloy deck Lawnboys (no longer made) also have a fantastic cut.

          For mulching, any mower that has a donut-shaped deck will usually do a decent job. The Toro Super Recycler is one I’ll mention by name.

          People turn off their brain when they see ‘HONDA’ on something, and just assume that it is perfect. Now I’ve got a Honda 4514H riding tractor (no longer made) and I will brag about it all day long – it is one of the nicest riding mowers that I have ever used. But alas, their current series of push mowers aren’t that good (especially considering how much you have to pay for one). I have all of the above mowers mentioned except for the Toro Super Recycler so I know of what I speak.

          If you have actually used a GREAT lawn mower, you won’t pay $750 for a mediocre one – you’re better off buying a vintage one off Ebay for a fraction of that.

          • 0 avatar

            @redmondjp

            So let me understand. You stated that you have owned 75 walk-behind mowers and none of them cut well.

            Say when you got to buying the 5th or 6th walk-behind mower that was yet another disappointment, didn’t it occur to you that buying something else rather than go through every model on the market would suit you better?

            Your advice to buy quality rather than mediocre is well received, I’m just puzzled it took you 75 purchases to come to that conclusion.

            I’ve had my current walk-behind mower for 25 years that cost the princely sum of $99. I couldn’t tell you the brand, that paint came off a longtime ago, its green with a B&S Classic 2 stroke engine that still starts first time everytime. It cuts grass. I may own 3 in my entire lifetime.

            You must keep walk-behinds less than a season each.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            75-Mowers-Later!

            This is gloriously bizarre. I trust that in all that time you *did* at some point become expert at sharpening blades so you could strike that off your list of possible problems?

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            I work on lawn mowers as a hobby. I already had about 40 lawn mowers when I went off to college. Right now I have about 20 in the rotating collection (I fix them up for friends as well as sell them and keep the ones that I like).

            @JPW: you need to work on your reading comprehension. I have had and currently have several mowers that cut great. I’m now collecting the John Deere 14xx and JX75-series mowers as they are now out of production and work better than most mowers on the market today (and current John Deere mowers are, well, just not as good).

            And do you really have a Briggs & Stratton 2-cycle engine on your mower? They were very rare and I have only ever seen one. If you can add oil to the engine, then it’s a 4-cycle. If you are actually using a Briggs 2-cycle on your daily-driver mower, then congratulations, my hat’s off to you.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Sometimes I want a new lawnmower, but then people talk about stuff like this. I just dump gas and oil into my old Suzuki powered Toro and cut my grass. Mower repair shop? People have to take their lawn mowers there?

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Usually the Toros are at the top of their Ratings (and Reliability). My folks have had two; one of which had some anomaly which put the motor out of commission, and the second one, which aside from a stretched control cable for the power-drive, has been flawless. (After the repair a month or so ago, I cut the grass for them, and the mower was taking ME for a walk!)

          • 0 avatar
            sirwired

            I’m a happy-ish Toro owner myself. 13 years on the current unit. In that time, it’s needed a new fuel tank (under warranty), the control cable has broken twice ($12 part and five minutes with a wrench; it’s now a better design), but now I fear it’s on it’s last legs, as the engine is burning oil.

            (The stretched control cable you mentioned is called out in the manual as required maintenance every couple of years.)

            It’s now a choice between a $170-ish new engine or a new mower. (And it also needs a $40 pair of drive wheels.)

            The drive unit itself has been great, with a head-slappingly simple variable speed design that’s a lot more robust than the hydrostatic units Honda uses. (For those not familiar with it, all it does is have the control cable vary the tension between the drive pulley and the belt by pivoting the transmission back and forth. The belt is a nice beefy one that a homeowner is never going to wear out, even with the constant controlled slipping. The transmission itself is just a simple gearcase.)

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            So that’s how the “Personal Pace” works!

            I’ve just been in a condo since I moved out! Don’t need to cut grass OR shovel snow — has its advantages!! (Dealing with our one asshat owner as Board Secretary — not so much! ;-) )

  • avatar
    CarMatch

    While I don’t agree with some of the WSJ’s assertions, the hyperbole in CR’s review is hard to ignore. Also, fact that the Tesla “broke” their ratings system is ridiculous and destroys the integrity of their methodology. A perfect score of 100? Sure, while arguable given the Tesla’s shortcomings, it is defensible. But saying it gets a 103 on a 100 point scale reeks of CR editors’ ideological and political beliefs tainting the process. Shame on CR.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As I said the other day in the Comments on the original story (and for which I was soundly rebuked), CR has been drifting politically leftward, and into genuine “greenie-weenie-uber-alles” territory for years! They got the Prius right for being a bulletproof car vis-à-vis reliability, but they were having “O”s about that car at the outset, as well. (As for the Tesla, they had a tester crap out completely, and it had to be towed. GM, Ford, Fiatsler, even Subie, their l8est cars at the tops of all the heaps? They’d be “black-circled” in a New York minute, were that to happen!)

      As for their general reliability stuff, their Recommendations sometimes don’t go hand-in-hand; as I also stated the other day, the B5 Passat was their Second Coming back in the aughts, overtopping the Camries and Accords for years, when they and the rest of the VAG products were anything BUT!

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        For their reliability numbers, they exclusively use survey results (as in, new designs have no reliability scores at all.) Their personal experience during their tests has never entered into it.

        And as many comments above have patiently explained, the numerical scoring system they use does not, and never has, taken either reliability or price into account. (This is in-line with the ranking/scoring systems for most automotive publications that have on.) So, yes, the B5 Passat well outscored the Camrys and Accords of the day because eventual coilpack and sludging problems aside, it really was a really great car for the time. (Most other automotive publications also had the B5 Passat at the top of their mid-size family car lists; it wasn’t just CR.) CR withdrew their recommendation once the coilpack and sludging problems became apparent.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Exactly! And their used-car review publication shows the overall picture with the fullness of time. I bought a used B5.5 Passat some years ago. CR told me the B5.5 Passat was far and away the best driver’s car in its class: true. CR also told me the B5.5 Passat was one of the least reliable used cars you can buy: also true. It’s a little unfortunate that I actually read their annual used-car review book after a year of ownership, while sitting in my mechanic’s waiting room, preparing to cut him yet another four-figure check.

          (But despite costing its used-car purchase price every single year in maintenance and repairs, I loved that car with a passion never since equaled; it was only when my girlfriend sat me in front of a spreadsheet showing it would be cheaper to drive a brand-new car that I relented and traded it in.)

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “CR has been drifting politically leftward, and into genuine “greenie-weenie-uber-alles” territory for years!”

        Drifting? You assume they weren’t always there?

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Occasionally I will give the benefit of the doubt! (Perhaps the huffing and puffing over twirly-whirly CFL hazmat bulbs should have also clued me in?!) ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            Adub

            I would have said their relentless demands for single-payer government run health care should have been a bigger clue.

            And a $125k car? Only the coastal elites can afford to buy a car like that.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “But saying it gets a 103 on a 100 point scale reeks of CR editors’ ideological and political beliefs tainting the process. Shame on CR.”

      Bingo.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        ““But saying it gets a 103 on a 100 point scale reeks of CR editors’ ideological and political beliefs tainting the process. Shame on CR.”

        Bingo.”

        Well, if they had modified their scoring system BECAUSE the Tesla “broke” it, then Tesla fanboys would be talking about how biased against Tesla CR was. The 103 came about because that’s what their formula spit out. (Acceleration is a part of the formula, and it was not designed to deal with a car that acceleration-wise, qualifies as a “super-car”.)

    • 0 avatar
      56BelAire

      +1…Carmatch

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    Talk to any Tesla Model S owner, and you’re likely to meet the same level of enthusiasm as CR displays in its Tesla reviews.

    Just about every digital and analog car magazine has done nothing but heap praise on the Model S. I’ll even go so far and say that Jenkins has a point, and at this point the Model S doesn’t need the tax credit to sell well.

    But at worst, I think all CR can be really accused of is making a story out of a non-story i.e “we have to change our ratings system because of the Model S”. That’s not really news, at all, but it is a great way to get people to read and watch their stuff.

    They may not sell ads, but I’ve got to imagine all those eyeballs and subscriptions matter for something.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t agree with Mr. Jenkins’ histrionics. I don’t think CU has conventional personal corruption in its ranks. Nor do I believe that Elon Musk made a seven-figure donation to the CU foundation. Still, Jenkins has a point. Their fanboy enthusiasm seems unjustified and over-the-top. Consumer Reports does have an agenda and does its fair share of shilling about products that suit such agenda.

      • 0 avatar
        harshciygar

        I think it’s less “agenda” and more simple human bias.

        There is something very important here that separates CR from magazines like Motor Trend, and I’m not talking about ad sales.

        Rather, Consumer Reports doesn’t regularly test supercars like the P85D. CR doesn’t do Ferraris or Bugattis. I don’t think they ever even did a Camaro ZL1 vs. Shelby GT500 battle, though they have purchased a Challenger Hellcat.

        My point here is that the P85D is pretty much the fastest, most powerful car of the lot…and it’s just really to drive. Have driven a few Teslas, I can totally understand the enthusiasm, even if it falls short in other categories.

        Their personal biases in favor of the Model S probably have less to do with it being electric, and more to do with it being bunches of fun to own and drive. People forget just how much “nerd” culture has infiltrated car culture…it used to be the guys building computers and the guys building cars had nothing in common.

        Now? They’re one in the same, so things like the Tesla app and neat little key fob really resonate with car reviewers. I mean, if CR is a shill for Tesla, what about Motor Trend, R&T, or even TTAC, which has posted mostly positive reviews of the Model S.

        Some people just hate CR, maybe because they trusted a CR report on a product and it failed them. Or maybe this is just a corporate hackjob meant to temper some of the enthusiasm people are showing for electric cars in general, and Tesla in particular.

        It’s not like the auto industry has ever slandered outside innovators before…*coughcoughTUCKERcough*

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    Consumer Reports has long been a worthless rag whose reports are half-veiled lies or outright misinformation. Oftentimes, vehicles that were simply badge-engineered (e.g. Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus) got radically different reliability scores, even though they had the same engines, transmissions, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I suspect that badge-engineered vehicles coming up with different ratings is not some shadowy conspiracy by a statistician buried in CR’s basement that prefers one Mopar brand to another. It comes from the inherent inaccuracy in relying on consumer surveys for anything…

      CR, for better or worse, has decided that they aren’t going to be in the business of deciding how close a car needs to be before it qualifies as the “same thing” and gets the results combined. They take the survey results as they come, and let consumers figure out the rest.

      There’s a very long distance between Garbage-In, Garbage-Out, and lies/misinformation.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      Exactly. Somehow or another, CR would give different ratings to badge engineered products. Tempo vs. Topaz. I only used their ratings, as gleaned from back issues at the library, for additional data to compare with ratings from online publicactions.

      It seems that now, CR definitely has its leanings, as do other online sources that once used to have more credibility and validity. It’s a shame that CR’s editor seems willing to join the fanboy conga line.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Somehow or another, CR would give different ratings to badge engineered products. Tempo vs. Topaz”

        That didn’t happen. People have claimed it, but the only occurrences of this generally happened when there were definite, explainable differences, like:

        * Same chassis, different OEM (Vibe/Matrix, Ranger/B-Series, etc; often each OEM will use different plants, have different warranty or QA policies, etc)
        * Same chassis, different assembly location (again, Vibe, Matrix, but this applied to the Corolla and Nova back in the day)
        * Same chassis, much different feature set or trim (this is why you’ll see AWD/2WD or V6/I4 broken out)

  • avatar
    TW5

    CR is an organization struggling for survival. Why would WSJ be surprised by their antics?

    It’s been a long time since CR was interested in providing relatively objective information about new cars. They are more interested in trying to guide the auto industry towards building the types of cars CR wants to test. They’ve hammered Honda and VW for decontenting interiors. You’d think we were in the midst of the greatest middle-class boom in American history.

    CR has been out of touch since the 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      TTAC has also hammered manufacturers for decontenting interiors – VW definitely included, and I seem to recall them doing this for Honda as well. Why does a consumer review organization favoring – or even advocating for – a high-quality product make them “out of touch”?

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        Because CR have labeled themselves as something more than just another muckraking media outlet. TTAC has presented itself in a positive light, too, but TTAC doesn’t reinforce the appearance of absolute objectivity by hiding their content behind a paywall.

        If you’re paying for content, you expect the content to be of superior quality. Providers of superior content would understand the difficulties caused by fluctuating currency exchange rates, and they would certainly be mindful of slumping middle class income. If I want to read “The World According to Someone with a Journalism/English Degree”, I’ll read free content.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Yeah, CR was totally alone in slamming Honda when the Civic of a few years ago decontented. *sarcasm*

      Seriously, every single review of that car that I read complained about Honda cheaping out in that design. (TTAC even wryly noted that despite near-universal critical condemnation of the thing, it didn’t appear to affect sales one bit.)

      And it’s not “out of touch” to tell readers that the VW interiors of today aren’t what they might have expected had they driven a VW of fifteen years ago. (Where, for all their myriad faults, had really top-notch interiors.)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Just another reason why it’s worth skipping commentary in the WSJ.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Kudos to TTAC for pointing out how worthless WSJ editorials are, and how obviously Rupert’s baby is in the pocket of Big Oil.

      The bigger surprise for me was how highy CR rated the Impala last year. I mean, how old is that platform? Is it a warmed over Lucerne, LaCrosse or LeSabre? I can’t keep track of ancient GM platforms.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Nobody’s pre-existing opinion of CR will be changed by Jenkin’s rant or these comments.

    If you hate Japanese success in the USDM, you hate CR. Perils of reporting.

  • avatar
    z9

    My understanding (second-hand I will admit) is that in order for prostitution to occur there has to be a john. In the case of a typical WSJ opinion piece the john is usually quite clear. But Mr. Jenkins seems to be talking about a novel rhetorical concept of self-prostitution, in which by praising the P85D too much, the magazine acted as if there were a john but no transaction actually took place.

    How I do so appreciate that the moneyed interests are making sure us poor unsuspecting consumers receive advice in appropriately measured tones, lest we go out and do something foolish such as blow $127,000 on a car without rear cupholders. We ignore Mr. Jenkins’ warnings at our peril: civilization is on the brink of collapse thanks to heathens like Elon Musk with funny accents seducing us with savage acceleration!

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “The Tesla is a shining example of how higher fuel economy standards can be achieved without sacrificing performance.”

    What about sacrificing affordability? What about when your $25,000 battery pack goes south in 10 or 15 years?

    Sounds like Consumer’s Union is showing typical left-wing bias in journalism by effectively saying, “see, higher CAFE standards are good…”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “What about sacrificing affordability? What about when your $25,000 battery pack goes south in 10 or 15 years?”

      How much do you think a E63 or S63 AMG will cost you in repairs in 10-15 years? Because that’s the level of car the P85D is competing with?

      I mean, yes, it’s an expensive battery pack*, but it’s not any car that does 0-60 in sub-3 is going to have TCO levels in line with a Toyota Corolla.

      Tesla _the company_ has more than a few issues, but the actual cost/performance ratio of the car is not one of them. Yes, you need to recharge it, which takes longer than a fill-up, but you may as well ask “Where will I get parts or tires for my 612 Scaglietti in East Podunk?”

      * that recyclers will pay a significant bounty on recovering, and which won’t be too hard to rebuild, if the Prius is any guide.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        The S63 AMG is not being sold as the future of the automobile. Something that’s going to save the planet from “carbon emissions” to justify a tax subsidy. And if the seat warmers on an S-Class die, you can still drive the car.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    The P85D is a great car, but even a great car deserves some criticism.
    CR dropped the ball on this one.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Funny how no one has taken the WSJ for being biased. You have to look far and wide to find a MORE biased news organization.

    Who are THEY shilling for? Not too hard to come up with some answers to that question, is it?

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    So we’re to take a conservative news journalists who wasn’t involved with CR when this report was written at his word? Shall we go to Dutch Shell for our next retort? If he had been involved in the review I would give him some credence but really this is more partisan hack attacks based on political lean. Nothing more nothing less.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Of course, the piece was an op-ed by someone wanting Tesla to fail.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll reveal my bias – every time Elon Musk opens his arrogant little mouth I want Tesla to fail. That’s why I won’t argue that there’s an anti-Tesla bias in the WSJ piece.

      But I’ve also worked with CU in the past and was surprised by both their cynicism and agenda. Jenkins isn’t entirely wrong either.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    If a judge at an Olympic event held up an “11” card, I don’t people would be out on a limb saying there was probably some bias involved.

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    C.R. is a joke for all the idiots who believe they have experts with valuable analytical skills and opinions.People gobble up every bit of b.s. presented to them .

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    Dear Mr. Adams:

    Please, for the love of god and gasoline powered automobiles, please visit the writing center. First visit is free. Below are some notes and words of advice. I’m not the grammar police, but you only tasked yourself with writing five sentences, and it took me several tries to read them. Honestly, please aspire to write clearly and proofread. Notes:

    — “re-enforced” – you didn’t have to invent a hyphenated word here. I believe what you’re looking for is “reinforced” – which means strengthened or supported by. Unless you genuinely meant “re-enforce” as in someone was enforcing Jenkins’s point through physical force or threat thereof, and then enforcing it again.

    — Yes, I said “Jenkins’s” You should use a dangling apostrophe for the possessive of multiples. Like if Mr. and Mrs. Jenkin co-authored the article, you could correctly cite “the Jenkins’ opinion.” However, unless you’re talking about Jesus, with proper names, contemporary usage suggests that names that end in -s retain the full ‘s at the end. (See Strunk and White.)

    — ““Prostitute is not too strong a word,” he wrote. “… (Consumer Reports) is shilling…” No no no. Parentheses – like you employed in the first paragraph – are used for asides or attribution, literally parentheticals. (get it?) Not editorial additions. Those belong in [brackets] to reference something that is implied, but missing or divorced from the source material.

    — “Consumer Reports sent to media an…” No need for the “to” in this sentence. Either “CR sent the media an…” or “CR sent media an” are much clearer. Better yet, you could clarify which type of media received the statement. Did they send it to automotive media, or popular media outlets?

    — “Included in the statement” – Nope. “Included was the statement:” is how you introduce an excerpt. The former suggests you are going to continue the idea, usually noting something that is inherent or alluded to by the quoted excerpt. (e.g. Included in the statement “Miatas are always the answer.” is that assertion that driver experience trumps all.)

    — “Jenkins aimed at that performance by saying…” What? – that’s an impossible way to begin a sentence. Just say: “Jenkins noted that if Consumer Reports was concerned…” He didn’t “aim” anything at the performance; he implied that CR was being hypocritical.

    In fairness – you do earn several thousand internet points for using “its” correctly. Twice. Nicely done, that.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      It defiantly goes against the principal’s of internet usage when taking the reigns over as (TTAC) number two. Spelling? What spelling? Spell Check useless when it picks wrong word and typist unable to correct do to there knowledge lack thereof. Your correct their Thinkin. Its bound to cause a ruckus amongst those caught out as it shows {exposes} weakness, and snarls from those not accustomed to being caught (out), thereby inviting exposer to mind they’re own business. Myself, I skip the worse, when I could of just tried to understand the cache of worshiping premium cars instead.

      Canadian’s will know Mr Adams version is similar to Coles Notes, a useful way to submit parsed version’s of reality to the teacher. But I say its still better than trying to understand British English, because they invented the new-age version, first, we’re here 99%, including every author but Baruth get it’s and its wrong. Ever single time and twice on Mondays, but delivering thoughtful well constructed click bate as story’s who’s providence is real. Thats for sure and it’s flare is as obvious as well cooked breaks.

      Howdya like them apple’s?

      • 0 avatar
        50merc

        WMBA (are you a radio station?) I liked “them apple’s” the best of all the comments. Too many replies are dyspeptic, and after reading them I have to go swallow some dyspepticola.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Don’t you mean “Dear Mr. Cole”?

  • avatar
    wiggles

    I remember when Consumer Reports used to always recommend the 4 cylinder over the 6 cylinder (for any car) due to lower running costs and greater economy. I remember when they used to recommend the low level trim or mid level trim but never the sport or luxury trim. They used to never recommend gadgets or fads on cars. 20 Years ago, if the Corvette had a “ludicrous” mode and retractable door handles Consumer Reports would have pilloried it. What happened?

  • avatar
    ajla

    When did CR start reviewing $127K vehicles?

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    As a long time CR subscriber, I think its correct that they are absolutely biased. It’s just that many miss what that actual bias is. They are biased toward performance. Sure the Tesla scored a 103, but heck the 911 received a 95 rating, and Corvette a 93. Are there two more useless, frivolous cars on the planet? Yet CR gave them plenty of credit, for performance. Their highest rated family sedan, the Accord, only got an 85 (and a 77 in some trims). The vehicle I picked for “If you could only have one,” the 4Runner, only scored a freaking 55. And the greatest toy on the market, Wrangler, received a doggone 20. (20, CR? Really?)

    I think CR has a definite lefty slant to it on some issues, but I don’t really see it in their car reviews.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I agree with Jenkins based on the fact that the Model S just isn’t that great of a car. A novelty to be sure, but the greatest ever tested? C’mon now.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Consumer Reports is a goddamn joke now. I used to defend them in the past but then their constant and extreme bias towards completely turned me off to them and quite frankly made them untrustworthy.

  • avatar
    sbc350

    CR has a “talking cars” episode dedicated to the p85d review. They explain that they ranked the tesla model s so high, they had to rate this one higher…..thus the 103. They admit that the car isn’t perfect, but they either had to break the 100 barrier, or re-rank every car that they have ever tested (and re-rank the cars every time they test a model better than the p85d). They thought that this was the lesser of 2 evils.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      It may speak to their dogged adherence (even if it’s flawed) to their own rating system that it “broke” it by scoring over 100.

      This means that other cars could possibly break that barrier, but I do believe that “fun to drive” is definitely high on their list.

      The P85D has a unique combination of performance and quietness that no ICE car could ever match – akin to getting launched on one of those “linear motor” roller coasters.

      They do like their performance cars a bit too much, but probably (like all car nuts), it beats the heck out of testing the “Camry” competition.

  • avatar
    mechaman

    Never have completely trusted CR. That being said, I consider the source of the criticism.

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