No. 844,
April 27, 2016

About The Autoextremist

What do you do when when you've been immersed in all things automotive since before you took your first steps? When you're the scion of an automotive family in an automotive town in its very own automotive universe? When you've forgotten more about cars and motorsports and everything and everyone involved in the business than most people will ever know? When cars aren't just in your blood, but also in your bones and your brain and the very air you breathe? If you're Peter M. De Lorenzo, you ramp it up a bit further. National commentator, industry consultant and author (as well as former superstar ad man), De Lorenzo's daily (and nightly) focus for the past 15 years has been Autoextremist.com, a weekly Internet magazine devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry and the business of motorsports. Translation: De Lorenzo likes to tell the truth about what's really going on behind the scenes in the car business. And sometimes, things get ugly. Real ugly. But he is as passionate with his praise as he is with his critiques, and Autoextremist has become a weekly "must read" for leading professionals in all industries. De Lorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today. It's the very definition of a high-octane life. And it's what fuels De Lorenzo to keep the pedal down - hard. He won't stop because he can't stop. A bit tired, perhaps? No way. De Lorenzo is one of the most untired people we know.

De Lorenzo'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. De Lorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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The Autoextremist - Rants


Monday
Mar282011

THE AUTOEXTREMIST

March 30, 2011

 

The end of an era for a business already inexorably changed.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 3/28, 12:00 p.m.) Detroit. The passing of David E. Davis Jr. yesterday (he died unexpectedly at 5:15 p.m. in Ann Arbor after having undergone a nine-hour operation for cancer a week ago) not only marks the end of a dominant career in the automotive magazine business, it pretty much signals the end of the car magazine business itself.

David E. and his band of merry conspirators did their best work by far long ago at Car and Driver, when the drumbeat of societal change in the 60s was mirrored by the antagonistically creative, march-to-a-different drummer thrum coursing through the veins of the media at the time. And David E. made sure Car and Driver was a very loud part of that.

It wasn’t hanging around, getting pissed off at the suits and racing off to start Automobile magazine. No, it was by imbuing the business of writing about cars with the passion, indomitable spirit and yes, wonderfully shit-disturbing irreverence that David E. fundamentally changed it for the better, which to me was his greatest gift to this business.

Little did we know that the heyday of Car and Driver would be the highpoint for the car magazine business, and that from then on it was to be a slow but inexorable slide downward over time, as the “business” of covering the car business became more important than the actual sizzle and passion of the content itself. Not that there haven’t been some great writing and some great individual issues since then, but ask anyone involved in this business at the highest levels and you will hear a similar refrain: With the conglomerates involved and the “suits” demanding more revenue and less cost, it has become an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege to bang out a car magazine worthy of more than a quick glance.

Add the emergence of the Internet to this steaming cauldron of Not Good and the death knell for car mags in print is nigh. Yes, there will be legions of us of a certain age who will still relish receiving our various favorite car mags in print in our mailboxes, so we can hold them in our hands, fumble through its pages, and linger on a particular photo for a lustful glance at a drop-dead gorgeous car, but we are a dwindling bunch. We will keep receding into the woodwork of time until the reassuring feel and weight of a magazine (or daily newspaper) succumbs to the vacuous glow of a computer screen once and for all.

As I’ve recounted in past anniversary issues, the original concept I had for Autoextremist back in 1986 was for it to be the ultimate enthusiast car magazine, one that wouldn’t accept any advertising from anybody so we could say what we wanted, when we wanted, while doing the most outrageous things imaginable while writing about cars, the car business, and the people who made it interesting. We were going to beg and borrow cars from private owners, because I was convinced not one manufacturer brain trust in their right mind would willingly participate and endorse our venture by actually giving us cars to evaluate. And we were going to inject passion, irreverence and creative urgency back into a business that desperately needed a swift kick in the ass.

At least that was “the plan” anyway.

But the rest of my ad career got in the way and while waiting for the ad business to get fun again (it never did) and hoping for signs that the Detroit automakers were going to get it sometime soon (they never did), before I knew it the late winter of 1999 was upon me and I knew that if I didn’t do it now, when?

WordGirl fortuitously reminded me of “The Autoextremist Manifesto” that I wrote back in 1986 for the magazine, but rather than go pound on doors for financial backing for a print magazine, clearly the most expedient thing to do to get the concept of Autoextremist up and running was to get it up on the Internet. And the rest, as they say, is history still being written.

Over the years of doing this publication, it became clear to me and countless other people in this business that the traditional print car magazines were dead - they just didn’t know it yet. Scrambling to catch-up while shoring up their online presence, the car mags tried to reinvent the model and at least get with the program, but to a bunch of enthusiasts who grew up with the monthly anticipation of waiting for their favorite car mag, the new world of the Internet turned over the content anthill, and all of a sudden there were hundreds upon hundreds of car publications to choose from, and the traditional car mags instantly got lost in the 24/7 cacophony that defines the web world today. (David E. even went that route for a while with the WindingRoad website.)

If someone were to ask me where all of this is going, I can safely say that the traditional monthly car mags will end up being online only, or they will transform into glossier, bi-monthly publications that go after a specific niche in this business, like covering the vintage world or vintage racing (we already have the excellent Vintage Motorsport to chew on), or the nostalgia/collector hobby (like Motor Trend Classic).

In short, the traditional monthly print car mags are going to fade away like yesterday’s news.

But enough about that. Today, with the sun setting on David E. Davis Jr., we celebrate his legacy and contemplate and remember a wondrous era, when for a fleeting moment in time a band of committed, talented and creative enthusiasts came together to set the automotive world on its ear by being wonderfully outrageous, irresistibly compelling, and wildly provocative. And it was as good as it gets.

The end of an era indeed.

That’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.



 

 

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