By on October 18, 2017

2016 Nissan Leaf, Image: Nissan

Over the past twenty or so years, I have come to firmly believe that the largest problem facing humanity is lack of consciousness. Sounds trite, doesn’t it?

But I’m not talking about “mindfulness” or “caring” or any of that New Age woo-woo. What I mean by “consciousness” is the same thing that Douglas Hofstadter means: the ability to temporarily step outside the actions you are performing, or the thoughts you are having, and consider them from a distance, as a whole. If you can’t do that — if you are unable or unwilling to occasionally evaluate your behavior, your preconceptions, and your desires as if they belonged to someone else — then you are truly no more intelligent than a dog or a computer program or a hurricane.

The conscious individual periodically steps out outside his situation so he can consider whether what he is doing makes any sense whatsoever. You can think of it as “the state of stuckness,” as Robert Pirsig did, or you can call it a “strange loop” as Hofstadter does, but you should learn how to do it. Without that consciousness, you will always be the victim of your environment and whatever information you consume. Lack of consciousness makes people susceptible to everything from autonomous-car crashes to investment bubbles to conspiracy theories.

In this day and age, one of the biggest pitfalls facing the unconscious among us is susceptibility to so-called “fake news,” which I will define here as any news that reinforces our beliefs and cherished ideas but which cannot stand up to even a modest bit of examination. Fake news is the processed sugar of brainfood and, just like processed sugar, we consume it because it makes us feel good in the short term. (Believe me, I know.) What follows is the story of a particularly tempting morsel of processed sugar. Call it a funnel cake, maybe, one that was eagerly consumed everywhere from The Drive to CBS News.


In fact, we’ll start with the CBS summary because it’s so perfectly representative:

You might think the fastest-selling used cars would be same as the most popular new cars, such as the Honda Civic or Toyota Camry. Instead, six out of 10 of the fastest-selling used cars are electrics or gas-electric hybrids, according to a new study by iSeeCars.com. The quickest-to-sell of these alternative vehicles moves in about two-thirds the time of an average used car.

Doesn’t that make you feel good? No? Well, imagine that you’re someone who sees the eventual demise of the gasoline-powered private vehicle as a necessary and inevitable social goal, and then it will make you feel good.

I’ll tell you how it made me feel, however: profoundly uneasy. Because I know that electric cars are used-lot poison that often depreciate in a staggering fashion and which have an extremely limited pool of potential buyers. So I checked out the story at iSeeCars. It took me a while to outsmart the link, which attempted to skip the actual story and take me directly to dealer sales listings, but I eventually figured out how to defeat the site (hint: don’t give it your ZIP code, no matter what) and see the list of “fastest-selling cars.” It was headed by the Fiat 500e and included the BMW i3 as well as the Nissan Leaf.

At that point, I could have done a TTAC story about the “news,” made a couple of bucks, and wandered off to play my guitar or take a nap. Instead, I tried to apply some conscious thinking to it. I had plenty of experience to tell me that electric cars rarely do well in the used market. So instead of just forwarding the feel-good study on to you, the TTAC reader, I did two things. I contacted iSeeCars to find out about their methodology, and I contacted a dealership insider who had access to the vAuto software.

vAuto gives dealers a real-time look into all sort of sales data, including average time on lot before sale. I asked my contact to get me a list of the fastest-selling automobiles out there. It didn’t contain a single one of iSeeCars’ top ten. Then I had an idea. I asked for the ten slowest sellers, the real lot lizards, the untouchables. Eight of iSeeCars’ top-ten cars were on the resulting list.

In other words, iSeeCars was telling people something that was almost precisely the opposite of the real market situation out there. I tried to apply some conscious thinking. How had this happened? Maybe their data team had accidentally reversed the list. Those sort of things happen in data science more often than anybody would like to admit, particularly in the era of NoSQL databases and query engines that use drag-and-drop graphical instructions. I asked Jacqui Trotta of iSeeCars whether perhaps her team had just reversed the list. She came back with the information that her team had run the query again and received the same results.

My next question: How does iSeeCars compile their lists? This is what I was told:

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 2.1 million used car sales from January through August, 2017. The number of days that each car was listed for sale on iSeeCars.com was aggregated at the model level and used to estimate the average days on market for late model year vehicles (model years 2014-2016). Cars with fewer than 350 listings were excluded from the analysis. For comparison, a similar analysis of one- to three-year-old vehicles (model years 2013-2015) was also run for sales from January through August, 2016. Prices from 2016 were adjusted for inflation by 2%, according to information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Well, that seems reasonable, doesn’t it? But a little bit of conscious thought allowed me to see the problem, which I’ve put in bold face for your awareness. Anybody who has worked at a dealership can tell you that there are two primary reasons that a used car disappears from the listings. The first one is obvious: it gets sold. The second one is less obvious: it gets wholesaled to the auction.

So I went back to my dealer contacts, who told me that many major franchise dealers either immediately send their electric trade-ins to auction or they list them for a very short period of time before sending them to the next large-scale auction. And then, as the apostle once said, the scales fell from my eyes. vAuto was measuring time to sale, but iSeeCars was measuring time to removal. In other words, iSeeCars could easily be counting cars that were dumped at auctions as “sales”.

A couple of discussions with dealers and dealer-affiliated personnel closed the book on this mystery for me. In the real world, electric cars are still showroom poison, they are still slow sellers at best, and they are still remarkably unpopular with consumers. In other words, dogs are still biting men and not the other way around.

How long did this common-sense investigation take me? About two hours of time total. How many other news sites performed the same analysis? Zero. Zip. Nada. How many major websites promoted the iSeeCars news story as if it were gospel truth? Let’s see:

* CBS
* Forbes
* The Drive
* Quartz
* Green Car Reports
* CheatSheet
* Today

The list goes on, and on, and on. Not one of those outlets had somebody who could take a conscious moment and determine whether the news they were promoting made any sense whatsoever. Is that depressing? Sure. Is it an unpleasant look into how the so-called sausage is made, whether the sausage is automotive news or news in general? Sure. Is it a reminder to you that being fully conscious in an unconscious world can be a tremendous advantage? I think you know the answer to that.

[Image: Nissan]

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79 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Sorry, iSeeCars, but When It Comes to Electric Car Resale, It’s Still Dog Bites Man...”


  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    This is a cool article. Seriously. Well done.

    I would have just assumed they meant “fastest growth in sales” since electric cars are all generally new models (thus it’s all growth) and moved on. But your way is way better.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      Seconded.

      Thoughtful journalism…who knew it could be so interesting?!

    • 0 avatar
      Menar Fromarz

      Great article! This one damn near nails the name of the website to a “T”. Too bad many other articles are filler pieces, but as long as you write for this site, Jack, I will sift thru all the rest to get to your submissions! Good show!

    • 0 avatar
      DAC17

      I agree; great reporting. As you point out, the problem is the lack of intelligence (or caring) of the average reader. Everyone has their own perceptions, and anything that matches it must be right! Mark my words, the internet in some way, shape or form (Facebook, Twitter, other social media BS) will result in the US being turned into a second-rate country. We’re becoming too damn lazy and stupid for our own good. Ever try to read what passes for posting on the web???

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    Truth! Preach on.

    Exactly the kind of garbage sites like this should be uncovering. Thanks Jack.

    • 0 avatar
      kurkosdr

      And to think that the media organizations will whine about how they cannot sell their content in paper form anymore because those “low quality blogs” are undercutting them and instead have to wrap ads around their content, how subscription conversions are low yadda yadda…

      While in reality all the media organizations do is parrot misinformation from blogs and copy content from news agencies like Reuters.

      Really good media organizations (like the WSJ) who publish original and well researched content have the ability to sell their content, because there are people who find value in it and are willing to pay for it.

      The others just let Gawker drag them down to its level, a game the media organizations cannot win.

  • avatar
    brettc

    The fact that the 500e is listed as the #1 “fastest selling” electric car should immediately set off red flags. Fiat dealers don’t even want those as I understand it.

    Nice job on actually doing the research, Jack. I think Bob Lutz might have a relevant quote regarding the poorly done iseecars article (if it can be called that).

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Didn’t Sergio himself even say something like: “Please don’t buy one, we’re loosing too much money on each one we sell.”

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        TTAC reported on a $10K per unit loss in 2013. Bloomberg spoke to Sergio recently and apparently the current amount is $20K. So either way, FCA loses a lot on one, and you don’t get much car or range (84 miles) if you do buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      But is the 500e any good? I quite like the idea of one and they are “cheap as chips” as the saying goes.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I wouldn’t bother with any of the “Compliance cars” (500e, 1st gen Leaf, Focus Electric, etc.) they already had barely-usable range per charge, and especially the Leaf is known for not being very nice to its battery.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Your advice is correct, although the Leaf 1 isn’t a compliance car; it is/was available nationwide.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            Yeah, I always thought the Leaf was a genuine attempt at mass-market electric. Dated at this point, given how fast the technology is advancing, but not bad for when it came out.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            107 miles of range is firmly within “compliance car” territory.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          JimZ, the problem with electric cars is and has always been one of utility vs. price. A used 1st gen Leaf has about the same utility as a small worn out gasoline car that you no longer trust for highway trips. If you only had to pay beater prices for the beater utility of a used 1st gen Leaf, it would be acceptable for relatively short commutes and as an around town backup car. The problem is that consumers can buy a better gasoline engine car for less money at all points in the life of an electric vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        LandArk, it looks like you’re getting replies from people who don’t own a 500e and have never driven one. So here’s an owner perspective.

        Is the car good? Yes and no.

        What’s good about the standard 500 is even gooder in the 500e: it’s even more adorable, even more fun to drive, even cheaper to acquire and operate.

        What’s bad about the standard 500 is corrected in the 500e: the electric version is smoother, quieter, quicker, and has better weight distribution.

        Also, every 500e comes loaded with everything that’s optional on a standard 500.

        The main bonus is that the 500e is hilariously entertaining to drive: loads of instant torque and insanely quick acceleration at suburban traffic speeds. (A little pokey between 0-15 mph and 55-85 mph, and basically nuts anywhere in between.)

        The downside is the software is buggy and FCA will never fix it, and your range is 87 miles. You’ll quickly learn how to avoid confusing the software (ask me if interested), and you probably wouldn’t drive a city car more than 87 miles at a time anyway.

        Build quality on ours is good. About 3 years in, it’s rock-solid and quiet. There’s always been a bit more wind noise from one door than the other, not a big enough deal to bother fixing.

        In short: if you can live with the limitations, it’s a delight.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Whether they are lot poison or not depends on where you are and of course how the dealer treats them.

    In my area we have a dealer that exclusively deals in EVs, OK they do stock plug in Hybrids too, and occasionally you’ll see a standard Hybrid that I bet they took in trade. http://www.paramountmotorsnw.com/ The velocity of their inventory is pretty high and their average velocity is probably higher than most dealerships. Of course it helps that people go there looking for an EV instead of looking for a car.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I would use the same method in analyzing any news you get, regardless if it leans from the right or the left. Everyone has an agenda. The closest thing to objective news around here is the local channels and some of that is suspect.

    I recently watched the coverage of the new Accord roll out. It didn’t take long to see a pattern of reviews being regurgitated. Objectivity and clarity are in rare supply these days.

    • 0 avatar

      Ding,Ding,Ding,Ding!!! We have a winner! I have long held the opinion that ALL media is biased and lazy. Jack’s article validates my thought to an extent. Unfortunately to my shame, many times I fall into the lazy category myself. This encourages me to be better. Thanks, Jack!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    As I age and mature residuals are starting to matter to me. After looking at today’s QOTD I did go over and look at FlyBrain’s inventory. The BMW GT on his lot and the low price at less than 50,000 miles made me laugh.

    Electric cars are still depreciating like German luxury vehicles. Ironically as NEW cars they are symbols of wealth but as used cars they are symbols of frugality. One of my teachers has both a Powerstroke 4×4 F350 (several years old) and a 1st generation Prius that he drives regularly. I see both as symbols of his general level headedness and it reminds me that I know he’s a darn good mechanic (although it’s just a hobby for him.)

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      > Electric cars are still depreciating like German luxury vehicles.

      Two things. I think you can remove “German” from that sentence. Also, I think you need to add “short range” in front of it.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    That’s some nice work, Jack. Keeping journalism alive.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Agreed. Rule #1 in journalism is know your sources. Rule #2 should be verify what they tell you. Today both rules are being violated, but it almost like rule #2 isn’t even considered. Way too much parrot reporting going on out there. Its getting worse with these search engines and social media sites that promote popular stories with zero investigation into the claims.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I may not agree with Jack on a lot of things, and sometimes I know I’m going to be agitated by what he writes, but I always know I need to stop what I’m doing and focus on what he’s writing and read the whole thing.

    I started skimming this article and listening to the radio. I got to the third paragraph without really knowing what I was reading and I decided I needed to turn the radio off and focus. And I’m really glad I did.

    Good work, Jack.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Thank you, Jack! I really enjoyed reading this article.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I don’t know whether to blame this on stupidity, laziness, bias, or some combination. I guess in an era where output is measured by the ton and accuracy is ignored, this is to be expected.

    I would be more impressed, however, if jack found an error that goes against his biases. I suspect he doesn’t car much about electric cars and global warming – given his affinity for large, overpowered vehicles. He questioned the story because it did not conform to his preconceptions, not because he has attained any state of “consciousness”.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    Bravo, Jack. That’s the way it should be done. Your implied commentary on Ctrl C/Ctrl V journalism is appreciated. Now, if only the folks over at a site starting with “J” and ending with “alopnik” would get the message.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Excellent work Jack.

    Every morning I skim through the left leaning press, and the right leaning press. I digest it all, and form my own opinions.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the point is that it’s a travesty that there’s “right leaning” and “left leaning” news at all. the only thing “journalists” seem to do anymore is parrot what they’re told and leave it at that.

      Modern “journalism”: “President Trump has announced that it is a bright sunny day outside. In response, Sen. Charles Schumer denounced the president’s remarks as “inaccurate,” claiming instead that it was cloudy and raining. Uh, so there you go. We gave you both sides. Er, balance! You decide!”

      Real journalism: “President Trump has announced that it is a bright sunny day outside. In response, Sen. Charles Schumer denounced the president’s remarks as “inaccurate,” claiming instead that it was cloudy and raining. Our investigative reporter Dingus K. Shmendrick, however, stuck his head out of the window and discovered it’s actually midnight and there’s not a cloud in the sky.”

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Even investigative journalists wear their biases proudly on their sleeves, leaving out obvious pieces of information about a subject that contradict their narrative.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          *sigh*

          the POINT is that nobody’s even looking for the truth. they’re content to just repeat what our leaders are saying, and we’re content to just believe whichever side we like. And- of course- be ready to go to war against the other side at any time.

    • 0 avatar
      DAC17

      And I thought I was the only person who reads both the WSJ and the NY Times!

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Great stuff. In the Rhodesian world we now live in where the average reporter is 27 and a journalism/English major who knows almost nothing, this isn’t going to get any less common. It’s why I’d rather read, for example, a blog written by a law or economics professor/professional writing about their areas of expertise than the WaPo or NYT reporters who cover it.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Here is my little pet peeve – calculating depreciation. If a car has an MSRP of $35,000 and comes with $5k on the hood and sells for $25k in two years – how much did it depreciate? $5k or $10k. I would say $5k.

    In the same vein, if a Leaf has an MSRP of $30k and you get $7500 off plus a $7500 tax credit and it sells for 10k in 2 years – how much did it depreciate? I’d say $5k not $20k.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Quit confusing things with your math, that doesn’t fit the story.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      In my state, a new C-Max plug-in hybrid offers $9007 in combined state and federal tax credits. Used car prices suggest that it will lose $15,000, or half its value, after three years of use. I count that as $6000 of real depreciation. In effect, I got my premium resale value up front, now, not later. Hey, it works for me!

      To compete with new cars that are effectively priced at one third off, used car sellers must offer a deeper discount, at least one-half off.

    • 0 avatar
      Whittaker

      “Here is my little pet peeve – calculating depreciation. If a car has an MSRP of $35,000 and comes with $5k on the hood and sells for $25k in two years – how much did it depreciate? $5k or $10k. I would say $5k.

      In the same vein, if a Leaf has an MSRP of $30k and you get $7500 off plus a $7500 tax credit and it sells for 10k in 2 years – how much did it depreciate? I’d say $5k not $20k.”
      ______________________________________________________________

      Your first example is correct. Depreciation should be calculated from the actual sales price.
      But you deviate from that in the second example. The Leaf sold for $22,500. That’s what the seller received for the car. It matters not that part of that price was paid by someone other than you. Depreciation is particular to the car, not who paid for the car. My car depreciates the same whether the government(or my rich aunt) chips in the extra $7,500.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes the fact that the government chipped in the $7500 does affect the depreciation, as long as that is available on the purchase of a new vehicle. When that sunsets the used car values will rise accordingly.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    I think I’m going to print out the first three paragraphs of this article, laminate it and put it in my wallet.

    It was just this past weekend that, after years of driving reliable beaters, I had finally convinced myself to buy a new car (Highlander AWD LXE). Now though, I’m rethinking that decision; better to throw that money at my mortgage and keep on “keep on’ing” with my ’05 Vibe.

    Millionaire next door, here I come…

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “Now though, I’m rethinking that decision; better to throw that money at my mortgage and keep on “keep on’ing” with my ’05 Vibe.”

      Probably better than that would be throwing the money in an index fund and keep paying your low-tax-deductible-interest mortgage.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I saw the problem immediately (overly broad interpretation of the real meaning of a specific data point). But then I have years of experience with databases and some of the false interpretation of the data they contain. Of course, such things need to be proven, which takes a lot of effort, which you provided.

    It’s interesting, to mention consciousness used in this context. It’s a useful tool for any kind of debugging. However, that insight born of years of experience is, perhaps, more useful as it often defines the parameters of the cause of errors very effectively.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    Well, there is “fake news”, which is, as you say, “any news that reinforces our beliefs and cherished ideas but which cannot stand up to even a modest bit of examination”, and there is “FAKE NEWS”, which is “any news that President Trump doesn’t like—even if it passes journalistic muster—because it is critical of him and/or his administration.”

    The latter, incorrect definition has more traction at the moment, at least on Twitter!

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Truly hilarious article. All the mention of the “lack of consciousness”, just after the car seat article where Jack showed that he is the poster child of the lack of consciousness, unless of course it serves his purpose of putting down or insulting something or someone he doesn’t like.

    Insults, check, insults in the title, check, virtue signalling, check, yup it is a Jack article.

  • avatar
    RS

    Great article. There is way too much mindless research-free ‘journalism’ out there. Seemingly nobody does the legwork but it’s usually because of an agenda and/or $$. iSeecars probably has a $$ driven agenda to produce this or why bother? Their sorting criteria had to be designed with a $$ motive (Clicks? Look who picked up their nonsense). But who can blame them? Until this article, who was checking any of this in the automotive world?

    I’d like to see 2 things to follow up on the article: A list from vAuto showing the top 10-30 sellers, and some info on where these EV’s end up after auction. Do small car lots buy them and risk them rotting on their lots? Have they depreciated so much at the auction that they can afford to take a flyer on one or two?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Nice. A little intuition and investigation goes a long way.

    Unfortunately, confirmation bias is very strong and reinforcement from fake news causes many people to defend some very fallible positions to the death.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Nice work.

    An important exception to the depreciation story is Tesla, but that may change as the Model 3 comes on line. EV depreciation is proportional to battery degradation. Cars like the Leaf have been terrible, while long-range cars like Teslas have been OK.

    When I turned in my 12 Leaf after the lease was up, Nissan refused my generous (but insincere) offer to buy it. The salesman informed me the car would go straight to auction, never to be put on their lot. Shortly thereafter, it showed up on a used car website 3 states away.

    New MSRP in 2012 = $38250
    Subsidy (taken by Nissan) = $7500
    Net price = $30750

    Used car price in 2015 = $9000
    Likely sale price = $8000
    Likely auction price = $7000

    Depreciation = 77% in 3 years. Lot poison, indeed. Glad I leased.

    Meanwhile, many in the EV community celebrate these cheap second-hand EV prices. Terrible depreciation will eventually hurt new sales.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      It’s $15k off as you need to combine the tax credit with Nissan’s incentives .

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @jmo: You’re misunderstanding me. When I took delivery of the car, Nissan deducted $7500 from the price in lieu of the Federal subsidy. This meant I didn’t have to qualify for the tax credit, and did not claim one.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The marketplace is the ultimate crowd-sourced font of wisdom, so it’s pretty risky to applaud any product that depreciates like that. In fairness, however, how much of that depreciation is a function of the expected rapid obsolescence of these products? Because their successors are expected to be so much better. I’m thinking here about just anything digital: personal computers (less so in more recent years), televisions, digital audio. It’s not that those products are bad; it’s that new products are so much better, and at the same or lesser prices.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        For many products, the perceived and actual values are aligned. However, low-end electric cars may not fit this. We can go further down the rabbit hole and split “value” into monetary and practical value. It’s when these are not in alignment that opportunity lies. If a low-end electric car meets your needs and is depreciated by a public that values absolute range and harbors fears about battery life, you win this round of the depreciation game.

        It’s similar to buying a Lincoln or Cadillac CPO car. If you are willing to take the hit of driving something seen as “not as good as…” you can get a lot of function for short money.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Let me add something on after reading the story and the comments. Yes, this was good digging, and it was good digging because Jack is an insider who saw a story that didn’t smell right. This used to be called a “nose for news”.

    But why didn’t the original content-generator sniff out a bizarre fact? They are paid to generate content, not dig. No matter how true Jack’s findings, people still got PAID for this and sites PAID to use it.

    There really are good journos out there digging into politics, true crime, legal shenanigans, opioid abuse, whatever. But, sadly, most people are just generating words. Too little good content for too many delivery channels.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Because in the era of internet news, being first is more important than being right. As is never admitting or retracting when you’re wrong. Gawker was really bad about that last part.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well done, Jack! I have a slightly different takeaway from this than you have. First, it well-illustrates the content-hungry media environment that we now live in. With websites that need new content right now, anything that is perceived as clickable is going to get scooped up; and the time pressure to get it up right now militates against any kind consideration for its truth (with the possible exception of material that might be defamatory).
    Secondly, and consistent with your point about confirmation bias, it illustrates (in a harmless way) the dangers of a monoculture, especially one whose members have been educated primarily by indoctrination rather than experience. Much more harmful examples of this are the U of Virginia fraternity rape story in “Rolling Stone” and the Duke Lacrosse team party rape story which led to a criminal prosecution, leading not only to acquittal but to disbarment of the prosecutor. Both stories, now discredited, traded on certain preconceptions (frat boys and male jocks are animals) in being widely accepted by “educated” persons as true.

    Forty or more years ago, the journalism profession was dominated by people who did not have Ivy League educations or, in many cases, any college education at all. Rather, it was an apprenticeship business, where experience was the teacher. Moreover, there were multiple layers between the reporter’s story and publication: re-write men, page editors, managing editors and so on. Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men” (the book, not the movie) shows this system in action on the biggest story of the 20th Century. Of course it’s very inefficient to have all of these people involved in effort that does not generate additional content, which is why it’s not done any more, even at the Washington Post.

  • avatar
    derekson

    Fantastic job figuring out the flawed methodology used.

    Anyone who has taken Econ 101 should have immediately seen red flags with the iSeeCars story: given that the price of used electric cars is so low it is immediately obvious the demand is soft.

  • avatar
    DavesNotHere

    In simpler terms, Jack, what you are really describing is ‘critical thinking.’ It’s woo-woo to equate phenomenology and metacognition with the much more concrete act of critical thinking.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your message, but the consciousness rap is intellectual three card monte.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      To the contrary, true critical thinking is impossible without consciousness. A dog can turn up his nose at a dinner; he can indicate that it tastes bad. The “why” of it is beyond him.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    “the ability to temporarily step outside the actions you are performing, or the thoughts you are having, and consider them from a distance, as a whole. If you can’t do that — if you are unable or unwilling to occasionally evaluate your behavior, your preconceptions, and your desires as if they belonged to someone else — then you are truly no more intelligent than a dog or a computer program or a hurricane.”

    Jack, you can go further back to George Herbert Mead. In a nutshell, this is his definition of consciousness all together. Hence his fame to rejecting individual notions of individuality (no interaction = inability to develop self).

  • avatar
    gimmeamanual

    Jack, the story is incomplete. You contacted iSeeCars asking about their methodology, did you go back to them with your findings/proof? If no, why not? If yes, what was their response?

  • avatar

    Nothing has made me more skeptical about media and journalism than my own experience as a writer. So, so much of what we read and see is at best secondarily sourced, or more usually three degrees of separation from the original sources. When you dig deeper, and find the original press release, or police report, or other original source you find bias and error in the reporting. Of course, from the choice to right about a topic there is bias, but there seems to be more of an effort to confirm biases than get the actual story.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I wonder how much is bias-reinforcement versus whatever will get the most attention – whatever the bias of the writer may be, it still has to pass muster with whoever owns the outlet (and presumably, is primarily concerned with generating profit), right?

      My own hill to die on this past summer was a local news story about some retiree who built stairs (poorly) into a park because the city wouldn’t build them (and quoted over $60k if they did). It didn’t matter the slant of the outlet, they all spun it as a David & Goliath story of the little guy wielding common sense over the evil government. Virtually none of the outlets included the pertinent (in my opinion, at least) detail that, less than 100ft away, was a paved pathway into the park. No matter your bias, “the government didn’t spend money unnecessarily” doesn’t make for a great viral headline.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the automotive press can be just as bad. Like how in the past there have been articles about some guy taking a shell of an old Datsun, mounting an eletctric motor, and cramming in a ton (literal) of lead-acid batteries. The tone of the article often was “if some guy can build an electric car in his garage, why can’t those dumb stupid car companies?”

        totally bereft of understanding that those dumb stupid car companies have to worry about minor things like making sure their EVs last a couple hundred thousand miles, don’t move on their own and run over someone’s kid, or burn their house down.

  • avatar
    The Comedian

    Another “Wet Streets Cause Rain” headline.

    _________________

    Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

    That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

    But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

    ― Michael Crichton

  • avatar
    carguy67

    Can you do the same fact-check on healthcare, please Jack? Oh, and the Iran nuclear deal, and NAFTA, and …

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    I can’t wait for tomorrow’s installment where ISeeCars responds all hot and bothered!

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Any news in support of any of the following accepted narratives is most likely false:

    1. Electric cars: Good.
    2. Diversity: It’s our strength.
    3. Climate change: Big problem.
    4. Trump: Bad.
    5. America: Racist, sexist.
    6. Immigration: Universally good.
    7. White man’s religion: Intolerable.
    8. Third world, brown man’s religion: Must be tolerated.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    ideally you have a Level 2 charger + a 240v outlet in the garage. that costs $$$$ as most homes don’t have a 240v outlet in the garage.

    And if your home is older, the amps might push your wiring to the limit. New wiring = $$$$$.

    People would rather have gasoline. the market has spoken. for now.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      When I redid my basement in my new (old) house, while I had the ceiling opened up I ran 240 out to my garage from the box in the far corner of the basement purely as a future-proofing method. I haven’t wired the 240 into the box yet, but it’s all there and ready to go in 10 minutes if/when I (or the next owner) needs it.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      And by $$$$ you mean a few hundred dollars on average.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    Another brilliant article from Jack Baruth. This is what real journalism is all about.

  • avatar
    streetparked

    iSeeCars’ whole product strategy is using sales data to help make buyers make informed decisions. Your findings indicate one of two things:

    – iSeeCars is not good at understanding this data in context and thus providing good advice to shoppers.

    – iSeeCars is good at understanding this data, found a interesting artifact that they knew did not represent reality and promoted it anyway to get press.

    My gut is that this is #1, which in a lot of ways is worse for them. I can think of a lot of other harder-to-spot data problems that could be skewing results that are presented to shoppers as fact. Auction dynamics are not well understood outside of the dealership, and would be easy to miss.

  • avatar
    Roader

    From the iSeeCars article:

    ‘“Vehicles that move off dealer lots faster must have the right mix of demand and supply that may be driven by factors like price, unique features, and performance,” said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com CEO.’

    From Wikipedia’s iSeeCars page:

    “iSeeCars.com partners with a number of automotive websites and car dealerships including eBay to aggregate millions of car listings for users to search.”

    My guess is that iSeeCars knew exactly what they were doing by submitting an utterly false article in order to drum up more EV sales for their customers, precisely so those dealers wouldn’t have to wholesale off so many of those slugs.

    Follow the money.

  • avatar
    streetparked

    When it comes to 3rd party data, analytics and interpretation, I’ll take carelessness over intent 19 times out of 20.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    A few years back there was a “news” list story about the snobbiest town in Michigan. Northville was Number 1, which while plausible it seemed unlikely to me. Some of the other cities listed in the top 10 were also suspect. I tried to figure out their methodology but it was poorly defined and vague. So I dug a little more and noticed that the first letter of every city on their list was N-Z. So they somehow left out all those A-M cities like Birmingham and Grosse Pointe Shores.

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