Electrek Loonyland: After the Referrals Scandal Goes International, Fred Lambert Doubles Down

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

What is it about these wacky new-school post-enthusiast autowriters? Prior to last week, I thought that Wayne “50 percent of the time I am an automotive journalist” Gerdes of CleanMPG was probably the loosest screw in the business, what with the drafting at 70 mph and letting a Ranger run wild through a subdivision with the engine off. It didn’t help my estimation of Wayne’s sanity that the payoffs he received for risking life and limb in the service of advertorial content were so Mickey Mouse. Why risk running over an animal or child just to save a few pennies on fuel and/or pick up a couple grand from an automaker?

Electek‘s Fred Lambert is playing for slightly higher stakes, as we revealed in last week’s piece on his double life as “impartial” electric car journalist and compensated Tesla referrer. In fact, since we ran the article Fred managed to get his eighth referral, entitling him to a second $7,200 Tesla Powerwall and bringing the total potential take for his advocacy into the $30,000 range. And while he never found the time to return my e-mails or engage with me regarding his behavior, when Automotive News decided to put him on blast he didn’t hesitate to start getting ugly with young Katie Burke about what he perceived as a “non-story.”

Nor did he think twice about implying that he would kill a Ford employee — a threat he retracted and blamed on his phone.

Burke’s piece draws heavily on the work I did here at TTAC, but I’m not the only person looking into Fred’s behavior. TTAC’s former Editor-in-Chief Edward Niedermeyer pointed out that Electrek isn’t meeting disclosure requirements for stock holding. Ford’s Karl Henkel called Fred out on his allegedly biased reporting regarding non-Tesla EVs, at which point Fred called him “Fucking Deceptive” and threatened to “kill him out.” A quick check for “Electrek” on Twitter or on various search engines shows the publication is being called out around the globe, with journalists summarizing my original TTAC post in several different languages. The electric vehicle reporter for the WSJ has retweeted the Automotive News article. Even the fine folks at ZeroHedge have taken some time to examine the Lambert shenanigans.

You’d think Mr. Lambert might want to keep his head down right now, but he’s doubling down, including publicizing an email he sent Automotive News after finding out they were planning a story on his referrals:

You have to admire the balls on this fellow — his complaint basically amounts to “THIS WOMAN TOOK ME SERIOUSLY WHEN I SAID I DIDN’T WANT TO COMMENT.” Like Wayne Gerdes, he appears to be utterly befuddled as to why anybody would have a problem with him earning five-figure benefits from Tesla even as he purports to report objectively on Tesla and its competitors. A whole army of Twitterati is busying itself pointing out hilarious contradictions between the way Fred covers Tesla and the way he covers everybody else.

What’s next for Fred? Former cross-country speeder and Tesla Autopilot pioneer Alex Roy has announced his intent to take Fred down by nearly any means necessary. Three of the four former TTAC E-I-Cs are publicly lampooning him. In fact, this is the first time I’ve agreed with both Ed and Bertel on something since around the time of Obama’s re-election.

So why does any of this matter? Several of the B&B have delivered supremely world-weary, faux-cynical diatribes about how “everybody is for sale” and “there’s nothing unusual about this.” What I would suggest here is that the average would-be electric vehicle buyer has no idea that Fred is suspiciously close to being an outright Tesla shill who could be holding Tesla stock at the same time that he is writing pro-Tesla “journalism.” They don’t have the luxury of having read a decade’s worth of reporting by TTAC and other outlets on the perils and pitfalls of automotive journalism. In other words, they’re about as well-informed on electric vehicles as most of TTAC’s readers would be regarding sailboats or a particular medical treatment. This is how bad journalism and problematic content drives the good stuff off the market — by being signal-boosted through automotive PR and blogger mutual admiration societies even as the writers receive cash or prizes from the companies on which they are ostensibly reporting.

I can’t do anything to prevent those EV intenders from visiting Fred’s website and using his referral code to further enrich him. It might not even be my job to do so. But what I can do is this: provide some context and some additional information for those buyers who are willing to take a critical or questioning look at the situation. That’s why we are here — to tell the truth. It was the mission when Robert Farago founded this site. It’s still my mission today. Thanks for reading.

[Images via Twitter]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Brett Woods Brett Woods on Oct 06, 2017

    Love the chicken. Something you can sink your teeth into, but gossipy enough to be popular and not esoteric. Another meaty morsel from the writer whose forearm sweeps away the semolina, yogurt, and pabulum we otherwise read every day. Dude should have bought a Model X instead of farm equipment though. My opinion only and…sigh, it has crossed my mind that if a Devil exists, it would trick humans into burning the distilled essence of their ancestors while at the same time, dooming their descendants to misery. When a peer does not return your emails it is insulting and disrespectful, no doubt. It’s like an active hurtful thing. Agreed we all need to read between the lines for the omissions and be aware of “job expected” bias. Nothing wrong with bringing it up and holding people to account for their mush. Most every review reeks of palatable format. I once read about a similar autocorrect mistake though. Two guys are texting and one asks, “How did the date go?” The other replies, “It was great. Went to the pub and after I walked her home and killed her in the woods.” I will go with the dictated-to-Siri-and-not-checked theory. Shameful for a professional. I do regularly view the Electrek website myself and I think it’s one of the good ones for news in that area. Never noticed Lambert before. Q: Is there something really wrong with coasting? I have to come home at 1am several days a week and I’m riding this bike with a ridiculously loud can. I switch it off half way through my subdivision and coast home, that way hopefully; everyone thinks the ass lives further up the hill.

  • Aymamacita Aymamacita on Oct 11, 2017

    And what of Tesla? Any response? Do other manufacturers have a similar program?

  • 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