Featured Post

Despite 8 years of Christie, high property taxes, N.J. still has good oysters, Red Bank

DAY TRIP TO RED BANK: I loved this Caesar-style Warm Cabbage Salad ($12), topped with an unsalted anchovy, at B2 Bistro + Bar  in Red Ba...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Feds may question coziness of automobile writers, manufacturers and car dealers

YouTube celeb Daym Drops was a panelist at a conference sponsored by the International Motor Press Association, the nation's oldest group of automotive journalists and public relations professionals; five auto manufacturers; and DriveShop, a nationwide marketing agency that provides free vehicles for evaluation by members of the automotive media.
The setting for #IMPACon17 was the Automotive Education Center in the Whitestone section of Queens, N.Y., where conference participants could try out the 2018 Honda Odyssey, Mazda Miata and other vehicles during lunch.


QUEENS, N.Y. -- A conference designed to raise the social-media skills of automobile writers started off on an ominous note.

It seems the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer-protection agency, is reminding so-called influencers to disclose "any material connection" between them and the marketer of a product.

"Boots are shaking at [Vogue publisher] Conde Nast" and at other fashion magazines, said Scotty Reiss, president emeritus of the International Press Association and co-founder of She Buys Cars.

In her opening comments, Reiss said she feared the FTC will go after auto writers next, requiring them to disclose flights, rooms and meals paid for by automakers or dealers who invite the media to auto shows or the unveiling of new models.

The FTC says in a sample letter sent to influencers that a material connection "could consist of a business or family relationship, monetary payment or the provision of free products to the endorser." 

Turning over a new Leaf

Nissan, for example, is planning to stage the worldwide "reveal" of the redesigned all-electric Leaf in Japan.

Fewer than a half-dozen elite auto writers will be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to Tokyo to see and write about the second-generation 2018 Leaf, the first mass-market electric car, which debuted in 2011.

Beyond those writers disclosing the flight, room and meals in their articles, another issue is whether the federal government will move to tax them.

Free cars, free delivery

Across the United States, DriveShop, Event Solutions International and other managers of large "press" and "marketing" fleets provide free loans of new cars, trucks and SUVs to auto writers and VIPs for up to a week.

Those vehicles are delivered with full tanks of gas to homes or offices, and picked up at no cost to the writer, blogger or video producer.

What industry wants

At Tuesday's conference, DriveShop CEO Derek Drake spoke to about 50 IMPA members and other participants.

The title of his talk was "The View from the C-Suite: What the Auto Industry Wants and How You Fit in the Picture."

Basically, Drake said what the industry and marketers like DriveShop want is for the media to help them "win the hearts and minds of consumers" and a "share of their wallets" through favorable reviews.

A Subaru spokesman said the Japanese automaker would be glad to post on its Facebook page any auto writer's "nice" article about one of its cars.

Presumably, it wouldn't be "nice" to point out that Subaru is the only major manufacturer that doesn't market a gas-electric hybrid in the United States.

Nor was there any discussion at the conference of how the world's biggest automakers are dragging their feet on introducing all-electric cars, aggravating climate change and causing millions of premature deaths from auto emissions every year.

The title of the conference was "The Digital Newsstand: Building Content, Audiences and Opportunities."

Conference participants were welcomed to the decade-old Automotive Education Center by Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association, which built the center and sponsors the New York International Auto Show, said to be the largest and oldest in North America.
Honda brought its battery powered Uni-Cub, which is intended for people who can walk, but not walk far. They are now available for rent in Japan. The rider can nod his head forward to get the Uni-Cub going, and look left or right to get the modern-day unicycle to turn.
After a spin in the Mazda MX-5 Miata with a 6-speed manual transmission, below, this Tesla owner can only hope the roadster is the last gasoline-powered car left after the transition to all-electric vehicles.

The conference and test drives took place in the picturesque Whitestone section of Queens, N.Y.
Honda also showed the 2018 Honda Odyssey, but the new minivan loses points by not offering a gas-electric hybrid version or one with all-wheel drive.
The Odyssey and Honda Clarity reintroduce the push-button automatic transmission once found in the Plymouth Valiant (my first car) and other Chrysler Corp. cars of the 1960s.
IMPA members paid $79 to attend the conference, which included breakfast, lunch and a reception with wine and beer, the last sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

No amount of drinking could prepare me for the return trip to New Jersey on the infamous Cross Bronx Expressway, which was down to one lane when a tractor-trailer in the middle lane hit a car in the inside lane, and both vehicles stopped so the drivers could exchange information.