Wayne Gerdes Is At It Again! Hired Hand 'Reviews' Kia Niro After Guinness World Record Drive

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
wayne gerdes is at it again hired hand reviews kia niro after guinness world

Simon Cameron, the 26th United States Secretary of War, is known for saying, “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

He could have said the same thing about supposed automotive journalists, too.

Wayne Gerdes, who was hired by Kia to set a Guinness World Record for fuel economy in the new Niro Hybrid, has just posted his review of the same vehicle. You know exactly how this is going to go.

We exposed Gerdes last year as a hired hand for Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” vehicles.

The German automaker contracted Gerdes to set fuel economy records in its diesel vehicles, then described Gerdes as an “automotive journalist” in its official press releases hyping the achievement. Gerdes also provided reviews for several Volkswagen vehicles, including the vehicles used for the Guinness World Records.

Earlier this year, Gerdes was contracted by Kia perform his hypermiling magic with the new Niro on a drive from Los Angeles to New York City. Gerdes, his co-driver Robert Winger, and the Niro Hybrid achieved an average consumption of 76.6 miles per gallon.

In contrast, we achieved ~45 mpg during our first drive in San Antonio.

However, when someone is a hired hand for an automotive manufacturer, that person must also draw a line when it comes to editorial opinion. In Wayne’s case, he doesn’t quite understand where said line resides.

Gerdes posted his Kia Niro “review” on his CleanMPG forum this Monday, and he does offer one short disclaimer at the bottom:

I am sorry I cannot provide many impressions other than those provided within the GWR drive – see link below – since I was hired to take the Niro on the Cross Country Guinness World Record Drive.

Gerdes probably would have been safe had he stopped there and only provided the basics offered by Kia’s official press release. However, Gerdes follows up the disclaimer with the following:

I can say however you will probably be impressed with the equipment, the driving experience and especially the efficiency when it is your turn to take the wheel of the most efficient CUV available today.

And that, my friends, is an endorsement — a paid endorsement, in fact.

I will give Gerdes credit where credit is due. He does restrain himself for the most part and sticks to the Niro press release’s talking points. Yet, earlier in the “review” — which isn’t much of one — Gerdes stumbles:

The Niro is a compact CUV in every sense of the word. An upright seating vehicle with off-road like looks from the higher roof with rails (FE trim lacks rails – yeah!!! :)), short front and rear overhangs, and all-around hard plastic lower rocker panel and front and rear fascia cladding.

Aside from the incomplete second sentence, that short, parenthesized comment is enough to give opinion. It isn’t much, but it’s there, and it exists. It’s another paid endorsement for Kia.

If Gerdes had any respect for his audience, he never would have posted a “review” of the vehicle. Instead, he could have posted links to the many automotive outlets offering unbiased (and unpaid for) reviews of the Niro, which have been generally positive across the board.

We asked Kia about the financial arrangement between itself and Gerdes, but it declined to speak on the matter. However, a Kia representative did mention that the Korean automaker doesn’t treat Gerdes as an automotive journalist.

Which begs the question: why is Gerdes posting a “review” of a product made by his client at all?

[Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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5 of 36 comments
  • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Feb 08, 2017

    Mark, I'm glad to see you take a sharp stance against this sort of thing. Journalism's gotten so bribe heavy I only turn to consumers at this point, people who pay rather than are paid. This kinda stuff runs rampant in the videogame market, pay a YouTuber a few bucks and watch them become amazed with a game that would be at home in an Atari.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Feb 08, 2017

    As a Kia partisan, I wish the company had simply avoided this clown. They should have looked and learned from VW's relationship with him. Hopefully the Niro will stand on its own, journalistic shenanigans aside.

    • See 2 previous
    • Banger Banger on Feb 09, 2017

      @JimZ I can assure you I am not Wayne Gerdes. Nor have he and I ever met. And I don't have a problem with editors. Hell, I *am* one. I just think for someone who once told me he didn't need any more auto reviews because "anyone can write a car review," Stevenson doth protest too much when anyone does, in fact, write a car review without the level of journalistic ethics to which he and I hold ourselves.

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