Autowriters.com editor Glenn Campbell invites any reader to submit his or her thoughts on this or any other topic pertaining to automotive journalism or the auto world in general.
I Told You So
Three outstanding candidates for the “I told you so” award are Dan Neil of the Los Angeles Times, Robert Farago of The Truth About Cars web site and Peter DeLorenzo, of The Auto Extremist web site. Each richly deserves consideration for predicting what General Motors is now admitting in supplications before Congress.
Glenn F. Campbell
Neil earned his shot at the award a few years back by stating in the midst of a new car review that the top executives of the company that made it should be fired. Farago easily qualifies with the steady drumbeat of the “GM Death Watch” dirge on his web site which had 222 verses at last look. And Delorenzo made the finals with his frequent rants making cogent pleas for rapid change at the car maker.
Neil got plenty of bang for his two-cents worth of opinion. GM withdrew its corporate advertising from the paper and strenuously sought similar action by all of its dealers in the market. When that brought nearly universal bad press, top executives took a jet to Los Angeles and reached a curious agreement with the Times: the advertising would return, Neil could continue to review cars as he saw them but, apparently, the Pulitzer prize-winning writer would not be able to draw any conclusions about the leadership of the company that made them. Later on in an Orwellian twist, GM’s PR vice president at the time was fired and renewed efforts to change the public’s perception of the company were undertaken.
Farago hammered on his obsession with GM’s fatal flaws to the extent that it became routine and its news and shock value diminished. He however, did not have the marketing clout of the Los Angeles Times and his reward was being ignored by GM and he and his writers deprived of press cars to drive. In fairness, Farago’s ability as one writer put it, “to never find a car he couldn’t diss” earned him similar treatment by other car makers.
Delorenzo comes to the awards podium from another tack. Armed with extensive insider contacts, a ton of experience in the marketing of cars and a serious understanding of how cars are made and perform, he has been the loyal opposition, making critiques intended to spur change in a company he obviously wanted to succeed. In return, he has been neither challenged nor shunned and certainly has been an outlet for GM workers thirsting for change. Possibly he was even used by GM to leak and thereby condition the public at a much slower pace to the inevitable blows that came rapidly once the company turned to Washington for help.
However, the “I Told You So” award would hardly be icing on Neil’s much frosted journalistic cake. For DeLorenzo, it would be a bitter reminder of what he did not want to happen, at least in this fashion. That leaves Farago as the recipient with full rights to say it as often as he chooses. Otherwise, as recounted, there seems little profit in being a prophet – one is proscribed, another denied and a third co-opted.