No. 927
December 13, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Tuesday
May302017

STILL INCENDIARY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Longtime readers have heard this story before, so I’m not going to regurgitate all of it. How I grew up in a serious car family rooted in the heyday of Detroit, with a special emphasis on anything and everything to do with GM; how I hammered away in my automotive advertising/marketing career for over two decades, trying to make sense and make a difference in an environment - and a town - that was rapidly descending into a giant sinkhole of irrelevance; how I came up with the idea for a car magazine called “Autoextremist” in 1986 that wouldn’t have any advertising so we could say exactly what needed to be said about the cars and the business of designing, engineering, building and marketing cars; and how I had to shelve that idea because I was still toiling away in my ad career. And how, disgusted with what car advertising had become – both with the clients and ad agency side of the equation – and tired of watching “Detroit” wallow in its own serial incompetence, I resurrected that car magazine idea thirteen years later and honed and polished it for the Internet.

The result? Autoextremist.com debuted on June 1, 1999, as a weekly Internet magazine featuring my perspectives, insights and commentaries on all things automotive: specifically the people, the products, the marketing, and all of the good, the bad and the ugly that entailed.

Working under a pseudonym while my ad career was winding down, my “Rants” in Autoextremist.com blew the lid off of the oppressively staid auto business as practiced around these parts – as well as the rote press release regurgitation that passed for news coverage back then – and changed the way the business was covered, talked about and assessed.

My first two columns – “White Boy Culture,” which excoriated what the Detroit mindset had become and why it was contributing to the industry’s descent into madness; and “The Sad Saga of Saturn,” which blew the lid off of the fiefdoms and the egomaniacal game playing that dominated GM’s rigidly obsolete culture and which contributed to the demise of the once-promising Saturn division – set the tone for what was to follow.

As I said in my book The United State of Toyota, Autoextremist wasn’t for everybody and needless to say, it wasn’t for the faint of heart: "From Day One, the real essence of Autoextremist.com was the fact that I said what others were merely thinking, or would only discuss in 'deep background' and in 'off-the-record' conversations. It was never a 'touchy-feely' publication that coddled its readers and genuflected at the feet of the car companies. There's plenty of pabulum in this world. And if becoming a lifetime member of the 'Milquetoast & Crumpets Afternoon Tea & Automobile Society,' while sitting around the fire chatting about Renault Dauphines floats your boat, there are plenty of other automobile publications out there to satisfy your primordial need for blandness. But that's not Autoextremist.”

I continued: “Born out of a defiance and frustration with the status quo that I believed was stifling creativity and squeezing the very life out of the automobile business - particularly as practiced here in the Motor City - and then fueled by my passion and vision for how great the business could become again and what was necessary in order for it to get there, Autoextremist.com was not only a labor of love for me personally - it became an influential force to be reckoned with in this industry with an impact far beyond my most vivid imagination."

And today, on the eighteenth anniversary of this publication, I am immensely proud of Autoextremist.com and what we’ve accomplished with it. And I’m even more proud to say that, despite countless imitators, Autoextremist.com is still the force to be reckoned with and still the destination for the kind of commentary and insight about this business that simply can’t be found anywhere else.

And I’m also proud to say that Autoextremist.com is still The Incendiary Voice in this business. We are constantly regaled with stories from deep within the car companies about how my “Rants” and “On The Table” items reverberate through the hallowed executive halls like wildfire, and that there’s a race by PR minions to see what we’ve posted before the executives within these companies see it, so that some sort of spin can be initiated. Except that there’s no amount of “spin” that can blunt the impact of The Bare-Knuckled, Unvarnished, High-Octane Truth.

The common refrain we hear is, “It’s scary. It’s like he’s right here with us and he knows what we’re thinking before we even think it.” Or something similar to that. Much gnashing of teeth and stomping of feet usually ensues, as well. The reason for this is that I have an uncanny knack for knowing the automotive mindset cold, inside and out. I know what these executives are thinking and how they go about coming to the conclusions they do, even before they do, which allows me to expose the poseurs, the spineless weasels, the unmitigated hacks and, of course, the carpetbagging mercenaries. I also have a legendarily sensitive Bullshit Detector, which comes in handy each and every day.

My columns are not only regularly quoted from in meetings; my perspectives affect corporate PR strategies and the direction of entire marketing/advertising campaigns. I would be lying if I said all of this isn’t immensely gratifying, because it is. When we started this publication one of my stated goals was to “influence the influencers” - whether it be the auto executives themselves, or the journalists covering them. And we’ve exceeded that goal.

But that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied, or ready to call a truce with the industry and shuffle off into GoAlongToGetAlongLand to write about the calming effect of bunny rabbits and rainbows and make wind chimes in my spare time. It’s funny, but when I finally put my real name on the byline of Autoextremist.com on September 21, 1999, I heard a lot of antagonistic comments implying that I’d get bored with it all soon enough, and once that happened the industry could get back to its regularly scheduled programming.

After eighteen years I can safely say that isn’t going to happen. I still have just as much fire for what this business should be as I ever did (just ask WG), and I don’t plan on phoning it in anytime soon.

I start my week at 3:00 a.m. each Monday morning and I immerse myself in this business the rest of the time because I am passionate about what I do. The writing is almost all consuming, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In order to bring it every week like I do, you have to love it. And I do.

So Autoextremist lives on. As a matter of fact next week - our 900th issue (gulp) – one of our most eagerly anticipated columns of the year is on deck. The Autoextremist Brand Image Meter, or as we refer to it internally, “The One That Has Them Quaking In Their Boots,” is the one column that’s poured over even more feverishly than the rest, if that’s possible. Some execs will be gloating, others will be defensive and cranky, and the rest will be polishing their resumes.

As it should be.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth, eighteen years on.

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