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june 2014 newsletter

The Road Ahead
The Road Ahead: Fasten your seatbelts we're in for a bumpy ride. Photo by Andy Shaffer.

The road ahead looks bumpy.

A good deal of the pessimism is prompted not just by the 90 or more editorial jobs cut by Source Media International but by the 6,000 jobs it slashed by closing its once profitable Source Interlink Distribution operation. Keith J. Kelly, writing in his New York Post Media Ink column, May 30, describes the truly drastic situation the magazine business is in. He says, "magazine publishers end up shredding the bulk of the magazines — perhaps as much as 70 percent — produced for sale at retail outlets."

Richard Truesdell's Facebook posting takes off from Kelly's column to bemoan the broken business model of magazine publishing. But it doesn't stop there. "The buff-books are dying and the car blogs are right behind them" according to Bertil Schmitt in his Daily Kanban rant of May 30. A veteran of decades in the automotive communications trenches, he is critical of just about every dimension of the auto-writing scene: the current crop of auto bloggers, their writing, their relevance and their pay or lack thereof. He backs his opinions by citing rankings of major car blogs, that "mostly have been going sideways in 2013, a trend that could be observed for the last few years . . ." A trend he likens to drowning on the Internet. The one exception to the trend he attributes to its eager catering to "an underage demographic where ‘penis' is a hot search word." Schmitt predicts that car companies are already searching for ways to bypass the blogger middlemen and take their product messages directly to the public.


road signs

Good news for GM CEO Mary Barra is USA Today's Jim Healey'sMary Barra opinion, "Recalls becoming 'background noise' that owners ignore." He quotes George Hoffer,  transportation economist at the University of Richmond, "If every recall is publicly covered, it is no longer an unusual event. The public will pay no attention." Other experts quoted in his June14 story agree and most see the rising total of recalls by all manufacturers as 1) a way for GM's competitors to avoid problems when the NHSTA tightens its safety oversight after the GM investigation and 2) a way to dim the spotlight on their vehicle faults while "recall" is still synonymous with GM.

An unusual aspect of the GM recall story is raised by Joann Muller when she asks in a Forbes article, "Why Do Women Think CEO Mary Barra Was Set Up To Take The Fall At GM?" Reaction to her earlier Forbes cover story on Barra prompted the question. Her best answer besides the "definitely not" she got from Dan Akerman, the man who nominated Barra, was a finding by two research psychologists that, "women are often promoted to dangerous jobs during a crisis, then often dumped when they can't clean up the mess." That may be true but women who are familiar with how often women are paid, promoted or empowered commensurate with their abilities and experience or with men of no greater talent, might have reason to raise an eyebrow.

Elon MuskThe consensus of many commentators is that Elon Musk opening his electric car patents to competitors is a case of "enlightened self-interest." For Tesla to survive, it needs the industry's commitment to electric car production to enjoy the benefits of volume parts production, multiple research efforts and a growing network of charging stations.

Not surprising, a report commissioned by the NADA titled Consumers Benefit from a Franchised Auto Dealer Network revealed "factory-direct sales of new cars either sold online or through factory-owned and operated retail outlets have not resulted in lower prices for car buyers or increased market share for manufacturers." The report also stated "The new-car dealer franchise network is the most efficient way to distribute and sell new cars as well as provide convenient access to service over the life of every vehicle."  Famed auto industry analyst Maryann Keller and her firm, Maryann Keller & Associates, LLC. prepared the report. A second report details Why The Franchise System Works Best (in auto retailing). Both reports are available from Charles Cyrill of NADA Public Affairs. His email is The reports are part of a "Get The Facts" initiative by the NADA that also includes videos and other materials, that can be seen at

Anne Fleming's Women-Drivers.Com web site offers results of its study of "What Women Really Want When Buying A Car." No, its not pink paint and accessories to match.


pit notes

Godzilla Attack -- picture courtesy of Slate

The "Internet of Things" and "The Connected Car" sounded like bright promises when they were around the corner but now that they are nearly upon us, some doubts begin to arise. For example, John Mello reports in that digital road signs in the San Francisco area recently began flashing "Godzilla Attack." Likely a harmless prank, as Mello notes, yet the implications of inert devices becoming interactive include malicious as well as mischievous hacksters, glitches and failures.

In J.D. Powers' 2014 Initial Quality Study, new technologies were the chief source of complaints by purchasers of totally new or redesigned cars. The self-driving car and its accompanying technical accoutrements are not likely to be fail-safe out of the box. And now, Automotive News reports a proposed bill in Congress would open up the exclusive connected car frequency band to other wi-fi uses. Your refrigerator could shut off your car's power steering. Then there is the distracted driving peril that comes with new digital toys. Although, contrary to intuition, a study for the U.S. Federal Highways Agency, reveals digital billboards are basically safe, according to Erik Sass in Media Daily News. He says the study revealed drivers were slightly more likely to look at digital billboards than standard billboards, but for the most part didn't look at either type of billboard for more than two seconds -- the minimum threshold for distracted driving. Good news for drivers but not so good news for sellers of outdoor advertising. In any case, not as distracting or startling as the roar of a posse of Harley-Davidson motorcycles overtaking you on the highway. Possibly one reason Harley has an electric motorcycle prototype traveling the nation this summer in an effort to gauge consumer interest.

Video: GoPro: Longest car jump.

The Washington Automotive Press Association reported it succeeded in persuading Toyota to reverse the change in its media test drive agreement that would have put the loss-payable burden on the driver. Other auto press groups also expressed their concerns about the change that comes up every few years or so. . . On June 18, 24/7 Wall Street listed "The Ten Cars Americans Don't Want To Buy." Based primarily on True Car's report of the average time a new car spends on a dealer's lot after he or she takes delivery, the ten and their days spent are: #10- Scion, 90.2; # 9- Dodge Avenger 96.5; #8- Lincoln MKS 97.0; #7- Chevrolet Tahoe 101.5; #6 – Chrysler 200 102.5; #5 -Jaguar XK 102.7; #4-GMC Yukon 112; #3- Cadillac Escalade 115.5; #2- Mitsubishi Outlander 117.1; #1 – Volvo S60 155.5. . . . For those who like to watch automobiles jumping and have the time here's a visual thrill from GOPro. . . . And for those who want to check out Lebron James' auto bonifides, BoldRide Daily provides this photo review of his collection:

LeBron James standing next to his Ferrari. More pictures at BoldRide.


new roads

Tesla's Elon Musk told Automotive News that flying cars are possible now except for the safety and noise concerns fomented by swarms of airplanes aloft. In the same article Toyota acknowledged it is doing research on something like a "hover" car. Media Daily News writes that Google's Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, told attendees at the Lions Festival in Cannes levitating cars could be one of the big innovations to come from technological advancements in the next five to 10 years. The eNewsletter writes that Arora and Google chief Larry Page discussed ways to relieve the traffic congestion they saw as they were flying across the country. Arora said, "increasing the dimensional footprint that cars could drive in — up as well as across", was one of the solutions. He cautioned however, "it's not going to happen anytime soon."

Video: VW creates hover vehicle based on girl's idea
Volkswagen asks for ideas and makes one girls hover car a reality.

The Royal Oak Tribune reports that Dan Gilbert, the man who is buying downtown Detroit building by building, plans to acquire Gas Station TV based in Birmingham, Mich. That company claims 50 million monthly viewers at its gas pump screens installed at 2600 stations in 42 states. Content is provided by ESPN, CNN, Bloomberg TV and AccuWeather. . . . Auto Channel has returned to the Boston market, exec. Vice president and co-publisher Mark Rauch, reports. Many years ago the Auto Channel show was seen weekly in the middle of the night. Now it will be seen on Channel 3 from 1-5 pm and 8-11 pm EST and various cable systems in the area . . . . Yahoo is set to launch a big new video platform to rival YouTube. Wayne Friedman reports in TVWatch that in an effort to catch up with YouTube, Yahoo is offering content creators a better financial split, more freedoms and will not demand exclusivity as YouTube does. According to Friedman, Yahoo plans to introduce two half-hour comedies next year.


passing scene

"Amorality and impunity are a bad combination." That observation was made by Bob Garfield in his blog for Media Post decrying the connivance of big cable companies and the government to do away with net neutrality. Titled "Hyman Roth Eat Your Heart Out." It notes that the merger of Comcast and Time Warner would give one company "control over one-third of the Internet in this country -- one-third of the information, one-third of the economy, one-third of the culture."

A Research Brief from the Center for Media Research says that a survey shows, "print and digital combined are increasing audiences for newspapers globally but digital revenues are not keeping pace, posing a risk for newspapers and the societies they serve." . . . Only 11 percent of Internet users are willing to pay for news online, Erik Sass writes in Media Daily News, citing the 2014 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. Sass says that is no more than 2013's figure and the percentage of consumers who might be willing to pay in the future is even lower.

One solution to the revenue problem for print publications is suggested by Ari Rosenberg in Online Print Insider: "Print Publishers Should Pivot Back To Print." That is, offer the digital versions of their products as a bonus to their print advertisers. For example, "Buy 24 pages and get two weeks of site exclusivity as added value. Buy 12 pages and you earn one week." Rosenberg quotes some statistics to show ample online advertising monies are there and that the market has established values for online ad impressions even though 26 million pieces of content are posted on the social Web every day.

"Native" advertising, while still hot and a potential outlet for writers, is getting lambasted by media critics such as Garfield and P.J. Bednarski who writes about "Finessing Fuzzy" in VidBlog, says, "The hottest issue in advertising, apparently, is disguising it enough to fool the observer, but not enough so that it's totally impossible to figure it out." Bednarski's recommendation, "Native advertising, however they're flagged, shouldn't be shy to announce why they're there." However, Garfield in his blog titled, "The Crusades Lasted 200 Years, I'm Just Getting Started." says the native advertising segment would, "quickly disappear," if publishers who "wish to run advertising that could be mistaken for editorial content, prominently labeled it, "This is an ad." That won't happen because he believes "hardly anyone would bother to read, much less click through, much less share a fake article -- the very reason advertisers want to camouflage their ads as editorial content to begin with. Anyone who tells you different is either a liar or delusional."


regional news


NEMPA's new YouTube channel debuted in June with full coverage of its annual MIT Tech Conference and followed two weeks later with coverage of its meeting with Chrysler at the Automation Garage. . . . Registration is now open for NEMPA's July 16-17 Ragtop Ramble And Crustacean Crawl on the Associations' web site. Manufacturers sending cars should contact John Lawlor at 508-378-3023 or


IMPA is seeking volunteer help, an hour or more, for its annual Test Days, September 17 and 18. The Test Days Coordinator is Paul Licata. He can be reached at Because helmets will be required for the on-track portion of the Test Days, IMPA has made special arrangements with Driving Impressions for those who wish to purchase one. Contact Bob Zecca and mention the IMPA Helmet Offer: 1-800-275-4667

2014 WAPA President Melanie Batenchuk published this reminder for WAPA media members who test drive press cars:
"Treat the car as if it were your own. That means parking it in a safe location (perhaps a garage in the city), keeping it safe from dings and scratches, and immediately notifying the manufacturer rep should anything happen. Return it better than how you received it. Keep the car clean and free of debris inside and out. If able and have the means to do so, it's helpful to the fleet management companies if you give it a quick wash – or even a detail – and fill up the tank before returning it. The car you received is typically going straight to another journalist, so this helps cut down on their time having to prep. Follow the rules. This should also go without saying, but follow each manufacturer's rules. Some companies allow spouses to drive with permission, others do not. Be courteous and respect the next person driving the car by not driving it aggressively or irresponsibly, putting a large amount of miles on the car without prior approval for a 'road trip' and asking for permission rather than forgiveness. NEVER smoke in the vehicles. Smoking in vehicles is prohibited by the manufacturers. Some of our members are allergic to smoke and have had to return cars to the fleet management companies. If someone smokes in a vehicle, the fleet management company has to pull that vehicle from the fleet, thoroughly rid the car of the odor and reconfigure vehicle-loan schedules at the last minute. This is costly and wastes everyone's time. Remember that driving a test vehicle is a privilege, not a right. Journalists who damage test vehicles or drive these vehicles in a reckless manner have had their test-driving privileges revoked—sometimes permanently—by the manufacturers. All the manufacturers and fleet management companies talk to each other, so they learn quickly who is a responsible driver and who is not."


Ron Beasley advises that in addition to electing Bill Adam their new president, SAMA members elected Paul Borden to serve again as vice president (his fourth term as a vice president and he has served 2 years as President). Pepe Delfino was elected Secretary and Marcello Serrato was reelected as Treasurer. Immediate past-president Jaime Florez moves on to membership on the Executive Board - with him.

SAMA: Topless in Miami Competition Winning Cars

Pictured are the winners in the SAMA Topless in Miami competition (l-r) the Ford Mustang GT in the Full-size competition, Chevrolet Corvette in Performance/Roadster, Bentley Continental GT in the Super Luxury/Exotic class, the Mazda MX5 Miata in Small Convertible and Audi RS5 in the Luxury Convertible category.


The Concours d'Elegance at Plymouth, Michigan's Inn at St. John has enough happening July 25-27th to exhaust the hardiest of auto aficionados. There is an art exhibit, auto auction, German car exhibit (accompanied by authentic German food), Italian happening, preview party and dancing in the nearby city of Northville. Outdoor concert, private tours of the Roush Automotive Collection and Museum, a lady's luncheon, informal modeling, and silent auction sponsored by the ladies of the Mercedes Benz-Club of America, a strolling dinner dance, seminars on preservation, restoration of collector cars, the Forward Look designs of Virgil Exner and the actual concours on Sunday, July 27. For more details check:


Pat Ganahl will be signing his new book, Hot Rod Gallery, at Autobooks –Aerobooks in Burbank, Calif. Saturday June 29. This book claims to cover it all from the dry lakes, first drag strips and first speed shops on into the 60s. And, with the veteran hot rod chronicler Ganahal at the wheel, it easily could. . . . . It is hard to believe but the Petersen Auto Museum celebrated its 20th Anniversary on June 19th. To mark the occasion, admission was free to all. The day kicked off what Petersen officials describe as "A Summer of Fun" with movies, concerts, and talks embellishing the on-going specially curated auto displays and exhibits.


awards & events

Based on the results of responses from over 92,000 new vehicle owners, Lincoln is the Top Premium Brand and GMC, Top Popular Brand in AutoPacific's 18th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA). The vehicle - car or truck - registering highest overall satisfaction is the new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class that also wins AutoPacific's second President's Award for achieving the highest VSA score ever. The truck with the highest overall satisfaction score is the new BMWX5 SUV premium luxury crossover. "The winners perform well in 50 separate categories that objectively measure the ownership experience." says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific.

For the first time, NEMPA's Yankee Cup has been awarded to an entire vehicle—and a truck, at that: the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup.
The Yankee Cup, presented each year by NEMPA, with input from MIT's automotive engineering faculty, to a "feature or system that significantly enhances the motoring experience, whether by making driving safer, more cost-efficient or simply more enjoyable."

The SEMA Garage – Industry Innovations Center open house in Diamond Bar, CA, July 17 celebrates the unique facility's ability to help manufacturers develop automotive parts and accessories from start to finish. Tools in the SEMA Garage include a portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM), a 3D printer, digital race car scales, a dyno and emissions lab, a training center, and a photo cove stocked with an abundance of lights, strobe kits, umbrellas and more.

At least the last part of this headline from Automotive News should hardly be a surprise: "Hyundai-Kia tops J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study for 1st time, dethroning GM." . . . . The very knowledgeable Car Coach, Lauren Fix, has been named a juror for the 2015 North American Car and Truck of The Year Awards. . . .The First Pinehurst Concours Scholarship was awarded to Pinecrest High School senior Cody Lunday, who participated in the 2014 Pinehurst Concours as a student judge. He plans to study Automotive Technologies in college. . . . The Amelia Concours d'Elegance, increased its annual gift to Spina Bifida of Jacksonville by 33 percent to $80,000. . . ."The Screwing of Katherine Legge" earned Anne Proffit best online column writing honors in the blind-judged 2014 AARWBA writing, photography, broadcasting contest!


lane changes

Across the Finish Line:  John Bishop - Gentlemanly co-founder with his late wife, Peggy, of the International Motorsports Association (IMSA).

Micheline (Micki) Maynard, is the new director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She taught at the Cronkite School as a Reynolds Visiting Professor in Business Journalism during the 2014 spring semester. Most recently a senior business correspondent for The New York Times, Maynard has authored four books, worked for some of the nation's top news organizations and business publications, (Forbes, Reuters, USA Today, United Press International, among them) lectured at several colleges, universities and other institutions and won numerous awards for her reporting and writing. While a visiting professor at Central Michigan University, she taught media entrepreneurship – a desirable skill in today's evolving mass communications world.

Jean Jennings, who rose to editor-in-chief and president of Automobile during her 29 years with the magazine was left or chose to stay behind Jean Jennings: Jean Knows Cars when its parent company, Source Interlink Media, decided to move the magazines to its Los Angles offices. Jalopnik said she was "fired." Source Interlink Media's news release announcing the move to L.A. and her departure quoted the president of Source's Automotive Division, "Although we are sorry to see her leave, we are excited to support Jean as she pursues her next venture in building Jean Knows Cars." Uprooting a lifetime with family and friends for an uncertain future in the not-so-Golden state doesn't sound like a tough choice. (Editor's note: AWCOM has asked her for a valedictory to the print business and an update on her Jean Knows Cars blog and brand.) . . . Mike Floyd is now Automobile's editor-in-chief based in L.A. while deputy editor Joe DeMatio and a few other editorial staff remain in Detroit working out of Source's Motor City business office. Because the Automobile relocation was part of a major contracting of Source's automobile titles, the new editorial lineups will be sought when the smoke clears. For those who have not read about the Source shake-up, try Source Interlink Media Rebrands as TEN: The Enthusiast Network from SEMA eNews for a concise listing of the new magazine lineup. . . Paul Hughes has replaced Kari Hamanaka as the auto contact for the Orange County(CA) Business Journal. His email is  and his telephone: 949-833-8373x236 . . . . Cara Picciano is the new contact for Modern Luxury and Jezebel in Atlanta. Email her at:  . . . .Writer, stuntman and owner of Stunstage in Rochester, MI, Matt Kein, asks email be sent to:  .. . Tom Torbjornsen has added High Gear Media to his string of outlets. His email remains:

Long-time automotive writer and editor Jon F. Thompson turned in his keys late last year retiring from journalism after nearly 43 years of meeting deadlines. Thompson, a graduate of the journalism program at Cal State Northridge who started his career in 1971 at the South Bay Daily Breeze, a Copley paper in Torrance, Ca., and who also did a stint at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, in San Gabriel, Ca., worked for Autoweek when that paper was published in Reno, was editor of Road Test magazine, Pickup, Van & 4WD magazine and Four Wheeler magazine, and feature editor at Cycle World. He also did a stint as editor of Open Road, Toyota North America's corporate blog before polishing off his career as a copy editor at Times Community News, a local division of the Los Angeles Times. Thompson is the author of two books - "The Official CB Book," and "Ducati," and editor of "The Complete Corvette Restoration and Technical Guide, Vol. 1" - and many freelance pieces and book chapters. He says he now spends his time traveling with his wife of 32 years, fishing, reading, posting in The California Files, his own blog, and just generally goofing off. He can be reached at


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July 2014
7 SAMA | Luncheon: Jeep
15 MAMA | Luncheon, Redstone American Grill, Hyundai
15 Concours d'Elegance of America | Short Lead Press Day, Plymouth, MI
16-17 NEMPA | Ragtop Ramble: Boston, MA
17 SEMA | Open House, Gargage Industry Innovations Center, Diamond Bar, CA
24-27 Concours d'Elegance of America  |  Plymouth, MI
August 2014
4-7 CAR Management Briefing Seminar | Travis City, MI
17 Concours d'Elegance | Pebble Beach
21 SAMA | Luncheon: Cadillac
September 2014
17-18 IMPA | Test Days, Monticello Motor Club
18 SAMA | Luncheon, Kia
October 2014
2-3 Paris Motor Show |  Media Days, Paris France
4-19 Paris Motor Show |  Public  Days, Paris France
7 APA/NADA |  Luncheon, Detroit, MI
9-10 TAWA |  Truck Rodeo, San Antonio, TX
14-15 MPG |  Track Days, Rosamond, CA
23 SAMA |  Luncheon: Chevrolet
28 APA |  Consumer Reports, Luncheon, Detroit, MI
November 2014
19 MPG | Keynote Breakfast & Ivy Award, Los Angeles Auto Show, Los Angeles, CA
19-21 Los Angeles Auto Show  |  Press Days, Los Angeles, CA
20 SAMA | Miami Int'l Auto Show Luncheon, South FL Auto Dealers
TBD SAMA | Ride-n-Smiles Event
21-30 Los Angeles Auto Show  |  Public Days, Los Angeles, CA
December 2014
TBD SAMA | Holiday Meeting
9 MPG | Dean Batchelor Awards Banquet. Los Angeles, MI
January 2015
12-13 North American Int'l Auto Show | Press Preview, Detroit, MI
16 North American Int'l Auto Show | Black Tie Charity Event, Detroit, MI
17-25 North American Int'l Auto Show | Public Days, Detroit, MI
February 2015
2-13 Chicago Auto Show | Media Preview, Chicago, IL
13 Chicago Auto Show | First Look for Charity, Chicago, IL
14-22 Chicago Auto Show | Public Show, Chicago, IL
March 2015
3-4 Geneva Motor Show | Press Days, Geneva, Switzerland
5-15 Geneva Motor Show | Public Days, Geneva, Switzerland


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talk back



Once again, I am in awe of your ability to find what is important in American journalism--and not just automotive. This newsletter is superb from beginning (NYTimes), through the middle (Tesla) to the end (all the news about Cervone, the Virginian-Pilot, etc.)



Dear Glenn:

An excellent issue, particularly the opening commentary and the Wade Hoyt farewell.

I've grumped before about today's on-line automotive "experts," but I'm depressed to hear that some denizens of the blogmob don't want to pay their speeding and parking fines. Not that I'm surprised. Having grown up in the Leo Levine Era, however, I am astonished that Mercedes-Benz indeed pays fines and repair bills for these poseurs.

Wade also accused some bloggers of producing blather. Again, I'm not surprised. Because the majority of these "content providers" do not realize how bad they are as writers and commentators, they will continue to generate blather. But I suppose, like Road & Track moving to Ann Arbor, it's a discomfort that we ancients must get used to.

Life in Mississippi is pleasant, and I and my fellow capitalists continue to search for oil and gas...occasionally finding some.



Autowriters' Spotlight

OK, so who's 'shilling' for Tesla now?

More seriously (well, not really) I'm glad you invited Wade Hoyt to unburden himself, and we all should appreciate his comments about ethical behavior, bloggers and more. I told him I was sorry to see him go, that he was one of the last of the Old Guard, the reality-based guys who rely on common sense.

Silvio Calabi

An Idea We'll Follow

Hi Glenn,

I am a volunteer at the Revs Institute (was the Collier Automotive Museum) in Naples, Florida. The season is now coming to a close but get busy again in November. Check out: that you might want to add to your next newsletter, look for the video of the collection.

Susann Miller



Is anyone out there in touch with Art Garner who just released his Book "The Day They Stopped The Indy 500" which is centered on the 1964 Sachs /Mac Donald double fatality?

I served as one of the engineers on the Halibrand Shrike that Sachs was driving and the day after the incident, Norm Timbs (Shrike Designer) and I were given permission to document the accident site, which we did to gather data for our stress engineering group.

I have been trying to reach Art but my contact information has changed significantly since we met several years ago. Would you please have him contact me at this e-mail address since I would like to invite him to participate in a local gathering and we will provide him with a work station so he can sell and autograph his book. His cost for the space is zero.

And the same goes for others who participate on your site. The date of the event is the last Sunday in June and the site is The Automobile Driving Museum (ADM) located a five minute drive from the LAX airport site.

Space for the authors Corner is limited, so all interested parties should contact me at this E-mail address.

Thanks...and really enjoy the information you impart.

Bob Falcon

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