Thursday, February 09, 2006

Blue Oval News and the automotive "Press"

Over at BlueOvalNews, they have an interesting piece about the bias of the press, primarilly newspaper, against the domestic auto makers. And it's something that has always bothered me. So click the header and read what they have to say.

As far as the Auto Rags, magazines that we all grew up reading, I've long believed that they all woship at the altars of BMW and Honda, and lost their objectivity long ago.

It's impossible for an American car to do well, even if they win a comparison test, the writer will still criticize the car and maker, saying that it should have been better.

One glaring example in my mind was the recent award to Honda of "Truck of the Year" to the Ridgeline. Hell, it's not even a truck, and not even an original idea.

But what about the Chevy Cobalt? It's hands down better than a Civic, yet the Civic is the holy grail to them. And god forbid you try and compete with the BMW 3 series, there will always be "something indescribable" about the BMW that tips the competition in their favor.

I say Horse Sh*t, the American auto makers have gotten quality to the point where it's no longer an issue, and it's time for a level playing field in the "Automotive Press." You can't crap all over Ford, GM and Chryser, saying that their plastics seem cheap, and then praise Honda's interiors, that are no better. I've driven Civics and Cobalts side by side, and I don't see the vast difference that the press does.

Auto magazine for the most part are becoming obsolete, being squeezed out by the Internet. For years I subscribed to Motor Trend, Car and Driver and AutoWeek, but today, the only one I read regularally is AutoWeek. I prefer to get my automotive news and information online, sometimes directly from the manufacturer's web page.


jwfisher said...

IMHO, there's a bit of a bias. But you'll also find that a large part of the staff of Car & Driver (and some former writers that are now at other magazines) have in past years worked for the Big 3 manufacturers themseles. And they drive enough to know the differences.

I do believe there is a built-in bias at new-car introduction time. Everything looks better then - and most especially it sells more magazines. The only good road teats are the ones run a year after the car has come out... there is no pressure from the manufacturer, you'll get a fleet car rather than the notorious chevy-style prepared "launch" car. You'll always find out more about the cars durability and issues a year later.

I have to disagree with you on a couple of points... it is possible for an American car/truck to do well, when there is an original idea. As for Fords, take a look at the initial coverage of the Ford escape - C&D loved it, it topped out on all their tests, and the foreign manufacturers had nothing that compared well (the little Rav-type vehicles all failed). But now, 6 years later, the escape has hardly changed at all while the competition from outside the US has gone thru 2 major generations. Even lowly Hyundai makes a better vehicle than the poor old Escape. And it really hurts me to point thatout.

Another example: being an ex-SHO owner (twice), I followed those comparison tests for years and years. Initially back in '89 (til maybe '92) it did great... the Maxima (for one) initially lost and then showed consistent improvement over nearly every generation until finally it left it behind... whereas the SHO sho'd (sorry for the pun) some improvements - far more than most Fords - but still had inherent weaknesses (such as the tranny, and tire width). Inevitably, it fell behind and got old (even the Gen 3 was for all intents and purposes still a Gen 1/2 underneath, minus the controversial engine).

Like nearly all Fords, these fell behind quickly. assuming they had anythiung original to offer in the initial launch.

As for the Rdigeline, it's a heckuva ugly vehicle, but it really does represent new and original thinking. Not in the shape of the bed, but in the structure and drivetrain. There are some compromises (and a V-8 is a few years off -the decision has already been made and discussed), but there are also many pluses and some really unique thinking. It deserved the award and the competition was extremely narrow in terms of new thinking. Lots of dressed up pigs, but little new thinking.

And the Cobalt? POS, always has been, and this new gen is little better (despite GM in it's desparation almost cloning the GM of Europe platform for it). The Honda, 50 or 100k miles from now, will be in ten or twenty times better shape (and have a better resale). There are a lot of reasons for this - some of which GM and Ford have never learned (for much of it - nowhere in the world - even your favorite Fiesta is a poor car in terms of quality, NVH, and durability), and some of which they are incapble of implementing for various reasons (out-dated design methods, manufacturing methods, plants, and union restrictions).

Suggestion is that whatever your readers do, don't stop driving other brands of cars with an open mind. Not necessarily to buy one, but to learn from them. When you start abusing the competition instead of learning from them, you close up and stop improving.

That's why this BS "tribalism" as I call it - whether it's "buy American", "buy Union", or "I'll never buy a Chevy" - this close-mindedness - is ultimately self-defeating and narrow when it inevitably leads to closing one's eyes.

-Jeff automotive blogs and website

Shawn said...

In poll after poll, jouranlists & lawyers are at the bottom of the most despised people. Why? Becuase they are seen as baised and opportunistic fabricators with holier than thou attitude.

While automotive journalists are not as bad as news journalists, they operate under the same mentality. They pick a side and that's all they'll report for the rest of their careers. There is not such thing as objectivity--They're only goal is to convince the rest of us that what they like is what we should all like.

Sad isn't it?

Shawn said...

jwfisher, I don't mind them picking Honda over Ford.

I just think auto mags have gotten lazy. I hate writers quoting the stats from the madia pack. Dos anyone run their own dyno anymore?

Also, I want consistency. If they are going to tell me one car is underpowered, you better explain to me why another car virtually the same is better. I'm fully willing to believe that suspension setup, steering, weight distribution can affect the performance...But you gotta make your case.

If they use words like "Cheap plastic," state the exact name of the plastic used. Then next time I want them to explain why it is cheap in one car, and okay in another?

You know what I mean? I don't want to get to the end of an article and be confused why a certain vehicle won over another.

Big Ford Fan said...

J I've had my say on this, I guess it's a matter of MY bias too. But not much more I want to say on this. Most of the Auto Rags, aren't worth reading anymore.