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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Motor press association ejects writer after he slams free cars, meals, trips as 'bribes'

Members of the International Motor Press Association on the buffet line last November, when Subaru sponsored a free, multi-course lunch at the 3 West Club to mark the subsidiary's 50th anniversary in America. This afternoon, BMW paid for the free lunch to celebrate Mini entering its 60th year in 2019.
After cocktails, multi-course lunches usually include chicken, fish, pasta, steamed vegetables, salads and dessert. Oysters on the half shell also have been served occasionally. Lincoln will sponsor the annual holiday meeting in December.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Word that I am no longer a member of the International Motor Press Association came in a telephone call from Bill Howard, an auto editor and president of the group.

My use of the word "bribe" in a headline over a recent post prompted the board of the country's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals to vote to terminate my membership, Howard said on Monday.

I told Howard I felt the word was justified in view of all of the free stuff, travel and dining automakers shower on writers in the expectation they will praise the vehicle they are evaluating.

Only Consumer Reports actually buys all of the cars they test for the magazine, which doesn't accept advertising from manufacturers or anyone else.

'Bribe' is justified

What I didn't tell Howard is that the word "bribe" was suggested by another member who objected to no longer getting the royal treatment from auto companies, and hoped for a return to "equal opportunity bribery."

Here is an excerpt from my post on the October event at Monticello Motor Club, a private racetrack for the wealthy:
"In an email, IMPA President Bill Howard reminded members:
"'Sponsors make the event affordable: $100 for the ticket, not $400. Say thank you as you relieve them of their coffee, bottled water, doughnuts and candy in the paddock.'
 "Tesla doesn't advertise or provide cars for IMPA events [or reviews], and that may be one factor behind all of the negative stories about the premier maker of all-electric cars.
"And in recent years, traditional automakers like the ones that sponsor IMPA events have restricted loans of new vehicles to writers whose reports have such a large exposure that there is a good likelihood they will translate into sales.
"That prompted one long-time IMPA member to say he'd like to see a return to 'equal opportunity bribery.'" 
The definition of bribe fits: "Persuade (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement."

I can attend lunches

After our phone conversation, Howard said that although I am no longer a member, I can still attend automaker-sponsored lunches at the 3 West Club in Manhattan as a guest.

I first joined IMPA in the late 1980s, when I covered Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Volvo and other importers based in Bergen County, N.J., as a business reporter for The Record of Hackensack.

I also wrote monthly reviews of new car models. I retired from daily journalism in 2008.

I rejoined the group about three years ago after I purchased a Tesla Model S, and started a blog on EVs and hybrids called Shocking Car News

More than 550 journalists, writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers and public relations professionals belong to IMPA, according to a member database I was sent three years ago. 

In July, Scotty Reiss, president emeritus of IMPA and founder of A Girls Guide To Cars, asked members to submit ideas for an ethics policy, but no such policy has been proposed or implemented.

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