WHY I’M NOT IN THE PLATITUDES BUSINESS.
Monday, June 11, 2018 at 09:05AM
Editor

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Roaring through life hard on the gas can be an exhilarating ride. It’s visceral, it’s dynamic, it’s loud and colorful at times, and it can be full of memorable stories and experiences that stay with you forever. There are certain pursuits that allow us to experience life out loud like this, and more than a few of us actually get to do what we want to do. But for many, societal demands force us into a go-along-to-get-along dance of drudgery that gets old almost from the moment you sign up for it. Sure, there are fleeting moments of pure joy, but it’s always punctuated, of course, by the sheer sameness that’s part and parcel of the day-to-day reality of it all.

Needless to say, writing for this publication is no dance of drudgery for me. Yes, it’s demanding, relentless and never ending, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Phoning it in is never an option here. I show up and bring it every week because that is what is expected of me, by me

That this publication fundamentally altered the way this business is covered and written about can’t be denied. And that is tremendously gratifying. Being part of the go-along-to-get-along posse was never going to work for me, and that this has rankled many in this business is no secret. (I have been on more “enemy of the state” lists at the various car companies than I can even count.) The resentment toward me stems from the fact that I don’t play the game the way it has been played – the way it should be played, according to some – for decades before I arrived on the scene. 

Up until I came along, access to auto executives was the name of the game for auto journalists. Access was the carrot that PR chiefs dangled – if you played nice and sprayed around the appropriate stories that were favorable to the given auto company -then you were considered one of the “good” ones, and you were granted access to one-on-one interviews and “exclusives.” The PR chiefs were happy, the journalists were happy and more important, their editors were thrilled that their charges were getting insider scoops ahead of the competition. 

Then I came along and messed with the status quo. I grew up being exposed to some of the legendary titans of this business and I learned early on what made auto executives tick. I didn’t need access to the modern-day auto executive mindset because I knew how their minds worked. I knew how they approached things, I knew what they were thinking even before their closest colleagues did, I knew whom they were beholden too and why, and I knew where they lived, what they liked and where they were coming from. 

So, when I started Autoextremist.com with the column entitled “White Boy Culture” nineteen years ago, to say it was a shock to the order of things in this town was the understatement of understatements. From that moment on I named names, and I exposed the insider stories that were only whispered in “off the record” conversations and in late night bar talk by journalists. I took particular aim at GM not long after with “The Sad Saga of Saturn," and from that moment on my “relationship” with GM was toxic because I knew too much and I made a point of saying it down to the last, excruciating detail.

Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Why couldn’t I be “nice” and do “nice” stories like the others? Why couldn’t I just go with the flow? Things would be so much better if I played along and didn’t write “those” kinds of columns. Yes, it would be but for whom? The PR chiefs? The executives who wear their egos on their sleeves, some who are so thin-skinned and insecure that it’s painful to observe? How about the business as a whole? Wouldn’t it be nice if I was a cheerleader for the good of the team?

How about no? Dispensing platitudes and “attaboys” has never been for me. I don’t think you should get a trophy for just showing up and participating. It stinks in Little League and it really stinks when we’re talking about how the global automakers conduct their business.

These companies don’t want to be exposed when they’re screwing things up or phoning it in. They don’t want to be reminded that they’re woefully late to a segment or that their product cadence is unfolding at a glacial pace. These executives don’t want to be called out for bumbling their way through their jobs and leaving a trail of mediocrity in their wake. And the so-called marketing “stars” at these companies don’t want to be reminded that they can’t seem to market their way out of a paper bag and that their serial careening is doing deep damage to their company brands. 

As we like to remind people around here, the High-Octane Truth hurts. It doesn’t suffer fools and it has no time for pretenders or dilettantes. It acknowledges the True Believers who give it their all every day to make things better but offers no quarter to those who are content with mediocrity, or even worse, those who run amuck with impunity. 

This hasn’t been an easy road for me, but living out loud never is. So few of us get to do what we want to do that I will never allow myself to take this for granted, and the memorable stories and experiences will stay with me forever. I call them as I see ‘em and I will continue to do so. When people agree with me I’m a hero, and when they don’t, I’m an asshole. Thus, it was ever so.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

Article originally appeared on Autoextremist.com ~ the bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high octane truth... (http://www.autoextremist.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.