Columnist: Consumer Reports 'Prostituted' Itself With Tesla Review

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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  • Sbc350 Sbc350 on Sep 01, 2015

    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.

    • Shaker Shaker on Sep 01, 2015

      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.

  • Mechaman Mechaman on Sep 03, 2015

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

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.