In Praise of Press Fleets

Holiday Thanks

by Josh Max

No matter how serious things got this year, they still kept us rolling through rain, snow, sleet and gridlock. There isn’t a boldface name in any newspaper or magazine or website for these sweaty (or shivering) heroes of the road. Their mothers neither hang their work on fridges nor email published links to friends and relatives.  A leisurely drive in a $60,000 sports car with their significant other on a lazy Sunday spring afternoon isn’t in their job description. The gig is to deliver and pick up the goods, and you can count on these guys like the sun rising and setting.

I’m talking about those unsung, coffee-soaked, iron-assed pros—the press fleet delivery people.

“Good morning, Mr. Max. Your vehicle is downstairs.”  How sweet the sound.

Photo By: Ralph Morris

Alone after drop-off—unless a chaser car’s involved—they trudge off into the day or the night to the bus, subway or train.  Their reward is another car to be delivered to another journalist, who may or may not be in a good mood that day or may criticize a car’s maker or car color straight off instead of looking in the driver’s eye for the briefest of greetings and perhaps ask how the trip was.

In 10 years of auto journalism and 600-plus press cars delivered, I have never heard one wisecrack or sarcastic comment from any press fleet driver. These responsible, courteous men and women follow their directives and go home at the end of the day while we journalists head off into our world of make-believe and a free ride.

Sometimes they have to locate a journalist whose car was scheduled to be returned but who has disappeared with the keys for a few hours.  Sometimes they find dents or scratches or worse.  EZ-passes, portable nav systems, sunglasses, cameras, Blackberries and even a deer carcass are found and must be returned. There is frequently peanut butter on the steering wheel and sand in the floor mats and straw wrappers in the center console.

They just keep right on doing their job.

We’ve all had a challenging year, but I think it’s time for a round of claps. Not while you’re driving, though. Try the below instead: The next time you’re easing back into the driver’s seat, nav system programmed to some sweet destination, the tunes of your choice wafting through the cockpit and the cares and troubles of office media work fading behind you—consider thanking a dispatcher and driver.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Russ Dodge

    Those younger writers, who don’t know the routine twenty-five yars ago when auto writers had to travel , often great distances, to pick up test cars, don’t realize what the press fleets and their delivery service have given us in convenience and in the saving of time.

    Over the years, some organizations have come and gone, and for the most part their services were good with a few glaring exceptions.

    For the auto writer, I believe that the guys and gals who work the press fleet are our colleaugues, although in a different way than other writers at our publications or fellow auto/motorsports journalists. The auto PR folks may be friends, but they are not colleaugues. Essentially, we (the journalists) and the press fleets work together to get our jobs done.

    Today, I need to salute both ESI and STI. From top to bottom, both of these organizations go out of their way to make the writers job easier. They truly “bend over backwards,” to help us. At a recent IMPA press day at Pocono , the truck I was driving (not a press vehicle) needed a jump because of a dead battery. The guys at STI came to the rescue with jump cables.

    Sadly, since the GM bankruptcy, the government takeover, and the President’s firing of two GM CEO’s, there seems to be no communication with Fred Mackerodt and the GM press fleet. It’s sad that GM was not at this year’s Pocono press days, but the auto industry has its ups and downs, and for GM this is a down period.

    Chrylser’s bankruptcy and semi-takeover by Fiat have not minimized their presence.There are still Chrysler products in the ESI press fleet, and Chrysler PR did bring a Fiat 500 to a recent event.

    If the press fleets ever went away, we oldtimers could pobably go back to the way things were done in the past. I’m not so sure about the new guys.

  2. Josh Max

    Russ, thanks for your comments.

    For the record, what I wrote above includes STI, ESI, Sarizer, Fred Mackerodt and Ford. I have not had any difficulty with Fred Mackerodt returning calls or with getting anything else I need from them this year despite GM’s woes. Every fleet delivery service without exception this year has provided outstanding service.

    Thanks again—JM

  3. Mary Jo Mehl

    Josh and Russ,

    We are reminded everyday how fortunate we are to work in this extraordinary niche of the automobile industry. It is especially appreciated when you, our media friends and colleagues, take the time to notice the details of our day.

    On behalf of all of us at STI, especially our delivery personnel, thank you for your kind comments. You just made our holiday.

    Mary Jo Mehl
    Vice President
    STI Fleet Services

    1. Russ Dodge

      Note to Mary Jo:

      It is beneficial for one’s own soul to give praise to those who are unsung,

      Russ Dodge

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