tama z71

Lighten Up, Guys

6 posts in this topic

Lighten Up Guys

November 8, 2007

Let’s say you’re an upstart car company. You’ve got all the financial, production and distribution portions of your business taken care of. You decide to make a splash in a market that seems to sell a thousand variations of what is essentially the same product. How do you stand out? You stand for fun. You put on a successful and overwhelming media blitz that says, “Hey, drive our cars, because you’ll enjoy it.”

And how do you deliver on the promise of fun? Give your car a three speed automatic transmission, source a Briggs & Stratton for your powerplant, and, citing safety and structural concerns, have your project tip the scales at a healthy seventeen thousand pounds.

Sound like fun? A car like that would fail to give me a reason to drive it again, as it could seemingly never give me a reason to want to drive it again.

Given the example of my fictional car company, its very much like an auto magazine that draws one in with the promise of pretty photos and expensive graphics, and delivers a derisive report on why the car in question is complete garbage. More and more, those in the automotive press fail to give me a reason to want to read what they are writing.

Maybe it’s a product of the self-hating culture of cynicism and criticism that’s pervading many aspects of the collective American mentality. Maybe we in America just like to bitch. But, think about the last time you read an automotive article and skimmed the writing for negative points about the car, rather than for points of congratulations.

It might just be me, but I don’t look forward to reading auto reviews like I used to. Sure, there will always be those sterile articles whose place is to inform, not entertain. We need those articles, if only for clarity’s sake. But the subjectivity of many auto publications today has taken the form of searing criticism and hyperbolic accusations of incompetence.

Continuing with that theme, much of the writing these days just isn’t where it should be. Comparisons are no longer a test of eptitude and engineering supremacy, so much as they are a tiptoe race to see who screwed up in ways least offensive to the panel. So much is exemplified in the ever-growing tendency to decry a car’s minor faults than to celebrate its major successes.

Too often, the writing becomes another intolerable product of the fad of the day. Without taking the time to cite a proper example, I’ll grab the HUMMER H2 out of the air to help prove my point. In today’s green culture, plus-sized vehicles are the targets of choice for those writers who wish to grab their armchair fame on the caboose of the enviro-train. THOMAS FRIEDMAN. While they fabulously decry the H2 and vehicles like it for our energy and environmental problems, the reality remains that such specific vehicles have a negligible impact on the overall problem.

For those of you thinking, “Hey, this kid’s talking about the negative car articles, and talking about them in piss and moan fashion. I’m not enjoying his article, either,” enjoy this.

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For those still reading, my point is further exemplified through some newly established publications finding their readership through the internet.

A standout example is Peter DeLorenzo and AutoExtremist.com. Don't get me wrong, Mr. DeLorenzo speaks a loud voice of proud protest to an industry and its media that quite often border on complete absurdity. That alone lends him a great deal of credibility that many in the industry simply don't have. But, that voice is almost always grandiose, ever-chastising, and immovable in its assertions. It becomes tough to read through the exercises in extended punctuation, even if you agree with what is ultimately being said (as I often do).

A more local example? Forums, like Cheers & Gears, or GMinsidenews.com. Look around. These forums have a habit of becoming inundated with angrier and more derisive posts. We celebrate problem threads on Toyota forums and chastise those people when they penetrate our websites. Hell, we don't even read whole articles when they are presented to us anymore. Moderators conveniently boldface the points of the article we are most likely to want to read. A helpful practice, but one that contradicts the point of writing the article in the first place.

The best example of written negativity comes from the website TheTruthAboutCars.com. Its a wesbite that seems to put forth a great deal of effort to be as scrutinizing as any publication out there. Many of the articles make a point of driving a cars shortcomings into the readers eyes with dense hyperbole, and acknowledging a cars successes with almost reticent spite. They've long run a column infamously entitled "GM Death Watch," a column that now reaches to all of Detroit. Check their website at the time of this post, and they've got four topics relating to their "Top Ten Worst Cars List," a subjective, unquantifiable piece of $h! that dances on the edges of the unreadable.

All of which brings me back to my original point. I want to read about cars, and I want to enjoy doing so. But, in today's happily proliferating culture of negativity and cynicism, it feels like the whole purpose in writing and reading about cars is sorely being missed. That's how I feel.

Shame that I had to bitch and moan just to say so.

Edited by tama z71
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A standout example is Peter DeLorenzo and AutoExtremist.com. Don't get me wrong, Mr. DeLorenzo speaks a loud voice of proud protest to an industry and its media that quite often border on complete absurdity. That alone lends him a great deal of credibility that many in the industry simply don't have. But, that voice is almost always grandiose, ever-chastising, and immovable in its assertions. It becomes tough to read through the exercises in extended punctuation, even if you agree with what is ultimately being said (as I often do).

The main difference, as I see it, between Mr DeLorenzo and just about every writer in a traditional buff book or industry publication is that Mr DeLorenzo thinks the world of himself and most other writers aren't quite that arrogant. I haven't found anything of use in Mr DeLorenzo's writings in many years.

On the other hand, Jerry Flint has the same arrogance, but somehow I enjoy reading his ramblings even though I find errors in them almost every time. I read to be entertained as well as educated. Mr DeLorenzo does neither. Mr Flint entertains me.

I find that too few vehicle reviews actually are critical. Sure, they find a fault or two but because modern cars are almost too perfect (compared to cars of 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago) in quality and reliability that the writers need to nit-pick. I find myself doing it when I'm comparing cars. But buff books can't truly be critical or they might offend the manufacturer who will remove them from loan lists. Why would you risk losing the next sports car to test because you found something you didn't like about a lesser product from that same company? Or worse, would you risk losing that company's ad dollars just to be objective when reviewing a vehicle?

My bigger problem with car magazines comes from the entertainment value. I remember when I used to buy Car or Car and Driver just for their writing (critical or not) and photography. I can name you great articles I've read and great photographic layouts I've looked over, but unfortunately none of them have been published in the last decade.

Read Car and Driver's article about their attempted cross-country, non-stop trip in a Volkswagen Jetta Diesel (published in 1997 or 1998). If you don't laugh out loud, you should have yourself checked for an ailing sense of humor. But C&D has lost something since then.

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This is one of the first articles of this length that I've read in full in a little while. Is that irony for you?

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This is one of the first articles of this length that I've read in full in a little while. Is that irony for you?

That depends on whether or not you found it to be enjoyable or more criticism and complaining.

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