By on March 6, 2017


The internet is infamous for suspect news stories and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate reputable information from propaganda, lies, and sensationalist garbage. Credible outlets take heat as #FakeNews while less stringent journalism continues to gain traction. The automotive industry is no different, especially when it comes to online marketing.

We’ve all been cruising the internet mindlessly and seen a suspicious headline for a new car paired with a blatantly fake image. I remember seeing photoshopped fifth generation Camaros purported to be “The Next Firebird” routinely for about a year before Pontiac finally passed away in 2010. While I knew it was bunk, I clicked anyway and compounded the problem. Sadly, things have not improved in the last few years.

Dealers and manufacturers are trying to figure out a way to ensure their products are better represented in the digital landscape — but they are struggling. 

Automotive News recently pointed out a slew of freshly sponsored posts and ads on Facebook showcasing “new” models of the Cadillac Escalade and Dodge Charger — which isn’t even due for a redesign until after 2020 — accompanied by misleading or doctored images. Let’s also not forget how much speculative imagery and information has been shot into the World Wide Web over the highly anticipated Ford Bronco.

However, the sources of these duplicitous details are incredibly difficult to pin down. In the case of the phony Escalade, where a group called Auto Elite digitally altered the SUV into a low and rounded crossover, the ad vanished after Auto News contacted the poster. The group then changed its name to Auto Review Hub, where it maintains a healthy following, and continues to post list-focused articles.

Several Metro Detroit dealerships owned by Ken Garff Automotive Group of Salt Lake City have been unwittingly sponsoring ads or posts using specious vehicle imagery. After clicking on the suspect social media posts, users are then delivered to a website with links to the actual dealership websites as “sponsored ads.” For the Detroit-based dealerships, a post featuring a two-door coupe with shaved door-handles and side mounted exhaust, misrepresented as the “New Dodge Charger,” linked to a secondary page housing the actual images of the car and genuine dealer ads.

Jeremy Nef, digital marketing director for the Ken Garff group, said he was unaware of the practice and had contacted Google AdSense — informing them that that his company no longer wanted to be associated with the sites. “We absolutely do not condone anything like this,” he said. “Deceptive advertising is not something we believe in. It’s absolutely contrary to our values.”

While automotive companies can ask Facebook to investigate something that they believe might infringe upon their intellectual property, the website’s bylaws don’t prohibit blatantly false information or modified images. Advertisements can even present intentionally misleading or vague content, so long as it links to the product that it was lying about.

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22 Comments on “Has Automotive Clickbait Gone Too Far? You’ll Never Believe This! (Except You Will)...”

  • avatar

    I constantly see the “2017 Ford Torino GT” ad on “” or some such.

    Then there’s the return of the 2018 Chevelle SS, followed by 1.7k likes, gasps, hearts, and comments like “bout damn time”, “I had one in 1983 but mine was a four door, and a wagon, and a Pontiac” and “muricah”.

    • 0 avatar

      We live in a world where people believed Kyrie Irving when he said the Earth was flat. He successfully trolled millions of people and this is no different.

      People, collectively, are stupid. We celebrate stupidity far too often in the U.S. and I cannot wait for the day when that is no longer the case.

      • 0 avatar

        @Spartan – “Confirmational Bias” is the operative word. We don’t seek truth we see validation of our beliefs. Ironically, presenting hard cold facts to those with fixed beliefs makes entrenchment worse. It has been coined the “backfire effect”. Too many people will blindly follow someone in a position of authority or fame.

  • avatar

    Automotive click bate?
    Hmmm……..there have been quite a few lately!

  • avatar

    Like the eternal “Volkswagen is bringing back the Bus!” hype?

    (In fairness, every Camaro is the new Firebird if you get an aftermarket hood decal and buy it in black, right?)

  • avatar

    So, just like the rest of the internet. The only referral source that matters these days is Facebook, and people will share anything on Facebook without the slightest iota of critical thinking. That’s true for stories about Donald Trump’s IQ and it’s true for stories about The New Chevelle!!1

    I’m thoroughly sick of Facebook and wish I could drop it without cutting myself off from the fun stuff happening in my relatives’ and friends’ lives.

  • avatar

    Google Adsense? You mean the same outfit that makes it profitable for sites to steal content?

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Hey, did you guys see the new Bronco they’re coming out with? It’s awesome! Looks just like the old one from the ’60s!

    Seriously, someone breathlessly told folks in my office about it a couple years ago as if it was coming out in the next year – when the concept was already several years old – and it was up to me, Captain Bring Down, to pop their balloon of hope.

    • 0 avatar

      Happens to me with my buddy “Jay”. Cadillac is making a new Eldorado that’s based on the Corvette. The new VW bus almost ready is one of the eleventy-billion ones they’ve done and not even the latest one.

      He reads those “2017 Torino” fake articles based on NOTHING like you and I read TTAC.

  • avatar

    There is also the “2018” GT500 making its rounds with the requisite 150 more horsepower than anybody else followed by the usual guess-it-wish list – Twin Turbo hybrid directed injected variable compression octo-rotary linked with a flat plane crank connected to a AWD, DCT, molecular Velcro tread, zero drag down force, blah, blah, blah.

    The usual suspect is a blue GT350 on steroids but C&D or R&T is running a god awful chop that is a red car with white stripes taking features from both the upcoming 2018 GT Mustang and GT350.

  • avatar

    I didn’t want to click on the article, but I read all of them, so oh, well.

    It just emphasizes how being a cynic is now more valuable than ever.
    Someone turned over the Internet rock and found Facebook and list sites crawling around underneath.

  • avatar

    I hate Facebook.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Thank God TTAC is above the fray and doesn’t succumb to such tactics. Now scroll down to see what Donald Trump REALLY thinks of cars built in Mexico!

    Anyway, at least those fake Bus and Torino articles contain a car.

  • avatar

    Anyone remember those “ND MX-5 getting a diesel” stories?


  • avatar

    The problem is that there are way too many automotive websites with too little real news to go around. Some resort to making up rumors while some just publish non-car related content – like’s Jack’s musings on how Audi commercials are really about discrimination against short people.

    But the end result is the same: It erodes the already low journalistic standards that auto publications tend to have.

  • avatar

    These ads are part of a much larger problem, called “native” advertising and are fake news in the truest sense. They are designed to entice and deceive the feeble minded by being difficult to separate from actual news stories on legitimate sites.

    Companies like Taboola and Outbrain specialize in serving up this insidious garbage and can be blocked with custom AdBlock plus filters, although the best option is to completely avoid visiting sites that use this type of advertising.

  • avatar

    “Credible outlets take heat as #FakeNews”

    “Credible outlets”? I lol’d. That’s being said, there’s plenty of fake news on both sides.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There was even a rumor of a new Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am being sold under the Buick name. If that were true would it be branded as a Buick-Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am. Just what we need is to add a hyphenated name to the Alpha number nomenclature. There is also talk of a Barracuda convertible based on the Challenger which would be a Dodge-Plymouth Barracuda.

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