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“So, yeah, it’s a new Focus, but it’s not the one we want. In fact, had we been asked what we’d want for the latest Focus, ‘old mechanicals,’ ‘horrifying exterior styling,’ and ‘no hatchbacks’ wouldn’t exactly have sprung to mind.” – “Automobile” magazine, on the 2008 Ford Focus
“Not only does Saturn need the Astra, but North American buyers need it too.” – “Automobile”, on the 2008 Saturn Astra
Focus Sales in 1Q 2008: 49,070
Astra Sales in 1Q 2008: 1,477
“Four, five press cars a week!” The violence of his own enthusiasm was starting to get the better of the old fellow; sweat stains were visibly creeping down the wrinkled sides of his cheap Hawaiian shirt as he waved both hands forcefully in an effort to keep my attention. “The manufacturers know they need to put cars in my driveway, because when I write about a car, it puts customers on the front door of that damn dealership Monday morning, bet your ass.” Ugh. It’s common practice for manufacturers to “match up” journalists on press events, and judging from my experience they aren’t exactly using eHarmony’s patented relationship-predicting algorithms to do it, because I keep getting matched with drooling morons who appear to hate my guts from the moment I climb into the airport courtesy car. Oh well. Might as well keep the conversation going, if only for my own amusement.
“But how do you manage to review five cars a week?” I asked in as innocent a tone as I could muster. “I mean, how do you even drive that many?”
“I DON’T!” was the near-shouted reply. “My daughter drives ’em, and if she likes a car, I’ll give it some of my time. We don’t even own any cars any more. No reason to. They’re free when you know what you’re talking about.” Clearly, it was going to be a long ride to the test site, but it turned out to an instructive one. For nearly three decades, I’d been a passive consumer of automotive magazines and websites, always wondering what it would be like to make it to the “inside” and actually live the lifestyle of a super-cool automotive journalist. Then one day, our senior editor, Zerin Dube, picked me out of utter obscurity to impose my worthless opinions on you, our valued readers – and before I knew it, I was a player in the whirlwind motor-journo lifestyle of free food, free hotels, free fuel, and all the bacon I can eat at the breakfast bar. It’s kind of like being Paris Hilton, without the pocket dogs and the “Nightshot” videos with Rick what’s-his-name.
Unfortunately, in the same way that Ms. Hilton appears to have gone, oh, shall we say, completely insane as a result of her fabulous life, I’m starting to suspect that all autowriters eventually lose their minds as well. It would explain a lot, you know. It would solve the mystery of why I recently had some crazy old dude whose sole racing experience consisted of transit driving in a cross-country rally give me a drunken lecture about my braking points on-track. It would help me understand why people who barely earn fifty grand a year prance around like the Prince of Wales and bully the staff at the press event hotels. Most importantly, it might offer a clue as to how the Press As A Whole did such an incompetent job of reviewing the latest arrivals on the small-car scene.