About 9 years ago, when I was moving my first steps into this world, I wrote a scorching review of the Renault Mégane CC. I did all I could to verbally maim it; it was exaggerated, and I was harsh and naive. But I was also right.
The Mégane CC was indeed a terrible a car. It was heavy, ugly, cumbersome, it drove like a pig and it was also very expensive. Mind you, I'm probably a bit biased here because I believe that carmakers should pay their customers, rather than be paid, to drive some of the horrific hardtop convertible-coupes* they put out so I'd have probably called the Mégane expensive even if the list price was 1 dollar.
The driving experience was terrible but the writing was great. That was both one of the best and one of the worst reviews I've ever written because while I may have been a little mean, I was also entertaining.
I never had any significant issues sparked by the things I said in car reviews, with the exception of one -item- I wrote on the shockingly bad Uaz Patriot (we'll get to that later) and even though I'll admit that mostly that may be down to the fact that my audiences have never exactly been Shmee-like, it's also due to my inability to really, really be what people call "opinionated". A friend, journalist and mentor, once said to me "you're what some might call a possibilist. You always keep it in the grey area, the safe side". I don't know whether he meant it as a compliment or a not but I definitely don't think that's a good thing.
The reality is that the vast majority of the journalists and media persons I know are neither brave nor honest. It's not a matter of principle, it's the fact that money talks. Which means that while you, hard-working journo making a miserable wage by writing stuff you don't believe on magazines that don't matter, might like to say that the latest Mazda CX3 is s**t, well, you can't. The sad truth is that, unless your name really means in the industry, the relationship between the car companies and media is borderline corrupt. The fact is, Perodua (random example) will ship you out to countries you've never seen, have you stay at a trillion star hotel and give you champagne and caviar for dinner so of course you're going to say the Perodua Kelisa is the best car you've driven. And then they'll buy your advertising space. And then they're going to invite you to Colorado for the next Kelisa or whatever.
Now some might say that that's the way it always was. In the olden days, Daewoo, which doesn't even exist anymore, may as well have shipped you Bahrain to drive their new Matiz but if the car was terrible, you were going to say just that.
Well, yes. That was yesterday. Today things have changed. Editors and writers have lost the courage because they cannot afford to lose ad revenue. They can't afford to be left out of whatever useless crossover's preview comes next. On the other hand, carmakers have lost their humour and have become slaves to the fantastic world of "influencers".
Most PRs and media persons in the car industry still either ignore the way the system works, or they pretend they don't know. Either possibility might explain why they keep diverting their marketing budget to cover expenses and invoices sent out by Instagrammers and YouTubers who buy followers. It's amazing that they still don't realize (or maybe they're just pretending) that most of the following is fake. But who are we to say? Should we approach the car company's PR person, during whatever next event might take place tomorrow, and tell them that the people they keep inviting to their previews and giving press cars to are fake? Of course not. That'd be petty. And also pointless.
I know, given the tenor of this article, you probably expect me to conclude with the silver lining. And you're right.
Most motoring writers I know have another job, sometimes related and sometimes not, and consequently another source of income. Including me, actually. Which is why I'm so happy I can ignore the insults directed at me by the Uaz guy (apparenty he's a mechanic, salesman and also PR, go figure) in Siena a while ago and I can tell you the Uaz Patriot MY '16 is the worst car I've ever driven. Oh I'm sure it works well off road but this is not an offroader, they've designed this to be a roadworthy SUV and that's why it was a total disgrace. I drove it a couple of years ago and then again a few months ago and it was too expensive, the engine was inadequate and outdated, the LED lights looked like they'd been picked up from the shelves of a cheap imitation of Home Depot and its infotainment system was so bad you were constantly wishing it wasn't even there in the first place. Apparently, there's a new one out. Great! They can keep it
*I'm talking about CC versions of the regular hatch. Cars like the Nissan Micra CC, the VW Eos and the Peugeot 308 CC. Proper convertibles are great
*I also feel like I need to apologize for the childish writings on the pictures I've posted