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letter to CAR magazine

I sent them this letter which they didn't publish or respond to.

Dear Sir,

I have become used by now to the lack of consistency in the UK motoring press when it comes to reviewing Alfa Romeos. Many UK motoring hacks are all too happy to roll out all those tired old clichés and sterotypes. Subjectivity is one thing, but reading the recent reviews in CAR of the 8C Competizione it seemed as though I was reading about completely different cars!


"What music!" enthused Gavin Green(CAR, December), "the finest motor music this side of a Ferrari V12". In the next month's issue of CAR Phil MacNamara was similarly enamoured: “its roar intoxicates” he exclaims. But two of his young colleagues(Chilton and Barry) subsequently complain that the 8C is too loud: "it's trying too hard , screaming for everybody to look at it, the neglected kid at school, standing on its head, back flipping and landing ta-da! with outstretched arms. 'Look, Alfa is back it's saying. 'Remember us?'" says Barry while the bashful Chilton agrees: "its actually a little bit over-done."


"The steering is light and sharp" says Green. A month later Phil MacNamara disagrees: "the heavy steering demands real effort”.


Green finds the gear-change "fast, almost instantaneous" while Chilton a month later complains that it feels "as sophisticated as a three-speed crash-box compared to the Ferrari".


"This is a fast car but not that fast" ascertains Chilton in the "Monaco to Modena" piece while Barry a couple of pages previously reckons "even the Scuderia would struggle to build a lead". The Scuderia, let's not forget, beats even the mighty Enzo around Fiorano. The 8C can't be too much of a slouch then....


There are too many inconsistencies here, too many contradictions and exagerrations. There are significant inaccuracies too: "The problem lies with the dynamics, with the ageing Maserati underpinnings" complains Barry in the Monte Carlo to Modena piece. That's not the case though. The 8C is no relation to the old Coupe/Gransport. I clarified with the 8C's designers that the car is based on a shortened version of the brand-new, very much up-to-date GranTurismo platform. You can of course tell this just by looking at the car- the engine is located low and rearward of the front axle(just like the GranTurismo) in the optimal front mid-engined configuration, unlike the old Maserati Coupe which had its engine located over the front axle. This might explain why Green assesed that "through the bends- as with all great cars- you steer by throttle and the seat of your pants". It's interesting to observe that Green, the more experienced journalist, is not influenced by the misinformation that the car is based on the older Maserati underpinnings like his younger colleague.


Having driven the car myself( and relished every moment), I have come to this conclusion: Gavin Green and Phil MacNamara are car enthusiasts who wrote honest and enthusiastic pieces about a magnificent car that marks Alfa’s return in spectacular style. Their young colleagues, to use one of their own words are "trying too hard, screaming for everybody to look at them, the neglected kids at school etc. etc........." To criticise the 8C for being too loud is like criticising Sophia Loren for having a big mouth, to miss the point(and to ignore the fact that the volume of that fabulous roar can be regulated via the Sport button....). Italian supercars have never been for the shy and retiring though.


I'm a car designer and I know other car designers who, surprisingly, are not really car enthusiasts. Having read the Monte Carlo to Modena piece I can only conclude that the same could unfortunately be said of motoring journalists.

Best Regards,
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Nice letter. Very well put.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Yeah, good points Alesi, although they would argue that differences of opinion are defensible the inaccuracies clearly are not.

I imagine you'd need to shorten it if you want it published though
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

good letter - i think you should edit it, shorter, and re-send it.

I agree with you that CAR journo's have become sloppy over recent years - reaching a nadir with that hairy buffoon who ended up on 5th gear

I remember the days of Setright and Bishop and even the young May and Bulgin.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Yep, a well thought out letter, but too long. If they were to publish it, they themselves would have to edit it quite severely,& you may not like their version.
It's good & proper that journo's have differences of opinion, otherwise it just becomes part of the sales dept of the car manufacturer. We all get bored of every journo banging on about how BM's are always the best, etc, when us lot know differently! Its almost as if they are scared to break free of the cliche's.
Inconsistency & errors just indicate sloppy writing.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Bulgin was a great motoring journo.

CAR isn't the authorative, independent voice it used to be. I stopped buying it years ago and hardly give the cover a second glance these days.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

A sound letter, sadly journos seem to have blessed themselves with almost celebrity like status these days and seem to think that motorists throw themselves at their feet and lap up their written offerings ..i know that journos are also well looked after by car manufacturers...the very reason why you wont see your letter in print mate.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Ouch! Not surprising they
didn't publish it.

That was a really nice piece though.
 
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Good letter

One thing that ticked me off from the Montecarlo to Modena piece is the fact they didn't like the 8C's brakes. Well, the yanks at R&T found that the 8C had the shortest braking of all cars they've ever tested.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Very nicely done :aaANYWORD:
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

I take a lot of what I read in magazines with a pinch of salt..

Last year EVO did a feature on the best handling FWD cars including old and modern vehicles, they included the MK1 Golf GTI and the 205 GTI ( fair enough )but not the Alfasud.....a little strange as most of the magazines that tested the Alfasud against the Golf put the Sud on top, and having driven both I know which I prefer.

Then about a page or two later there is an article on front wheel drive in general where they state the Sud was the first front wheel drive car to feature some passive rear steering in it's design blah blah...

Maybe they just couldn't find an Alfasud for the test. Now I know it has been surpassed by more modern designs but they should of at least included it when they included the Golf.

On another note regarding magazine reviews Harman Kardon have a listening room where they test their speakers. The speakers are hidden behind acoustic cloth curtains so they are tested " blind ", at the press of a button the speaker is changed for another one buy a system of rails and actuators in the floor, this all takes about 2-3 seconds, and the listener can compare other speakers etc etc.

Harman than done a practical test using hifi enthusiasts, hifi retailers and hifi magazine reveiwers to see who could identify which speaker was which out of nine changes and see how consistant there ears were and how good they were at judging sound, so for example speaker No 1 was also speaker No 7 etc.

Who fared worst......the so called hifi experts from hifi magazines!!!

Not saying all magazine articles are bad, but I only trust the ones written by long term experienced reviewers and not the ones written by people who hop from a car magazine to a photography magazine to a computer magazine etc.

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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Isn't the reason for this that magazine
writers are basically journos and not
what you'd class as experts in any particular
field?

I bet they don't actually learn much about
cars (or hifi) in journalist school.
 
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nev View Post
Isn't the reason for this that magazine
writers are basically journos and not
what you'd class as experts in any particular
field?

I bet they don't actually learn much about
cars (or hifi) in journalist school.

Very true but the majority of the general public do think they are experts and take what they write as gospel.

Media is a powerful tool.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

nice letter....
 
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

one thing you need to bear in mind is lead times and publishing deadlines. You may have missed the deadline for the next issue, or they may have had many letters that month and couldn't print them all.

Or, maybe, they've had two or three letters like yours, and they will published all three, then provide a general reply. Actually, CAR never, ever replies to readers' letters.

So don't give up yet.

Also...you have said that the 8C reviews are inconsistent. I don't know how many 8C press cars there are, but Alfa being Alfa, it did enter my mind...maybe it's the 8C that isn't consistent from car to car? Granted, there's only a slim chance that might be the case, but it's worth bearing in mind... ;-)

g

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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Well constructd letter, however it is to long for the magazine to publish + I doubt that they would print a letter that slates their own hacks.

I never take a great deal of what is in any motoring mag as buying a car is an individual choice - if we all believed what the hacks say Alfa would have been out of business years ago in the UK.

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Re: letter to CAR magazine

To be honest I don't know what you guys are jumping up and down about...

Let these morons print there bilge, lies, and biased and erroneous garbage....

Do you really want a good review from these idiots??? because if you do - you are liale to end up having idiots drive Alfa's spelt with a p and with no appreciation of what the brand stands for....

my hats of to our journalist pals....they are keeping Alfa for the people that can truly appreciate it - not the mindless half witts...that buy cars believing because some journo has given it a good review...it would up their status...to go out and buy one....

Lets keep these people at bay - and in the cars they truly belong in....

I hear BMW's are getting a good write up...


Chris
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

will be intresting to see if you get a reply.

Every one is entitled to an opinion though.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisd_b View Post
To be honest I don't know what you guys are jumping up and down about...

Let these morons print there bilge, lies, and biased and erroneous garbage....

Do you really want a good review from these idiots??? because if you do - you are liale to end up having idiots drive Alfa's spelt with a p and with no appreciation of what the brand stands for....

my hats of to our journalist pals....they are keeping Alfa for the people that can truly appreciate it - not the mindless half witts...that buy cars believing because some journo has given it a good review...it would up their status...to go out and buy one....

Lets keep these people at bay - and in the cars they truly belong in....

I hear BMW's are getting a good write up...


Chris
i think you're being too harsh, Chris.

These guys drive cars day in and day out; more cars than i do, more cars than you do. Have you driven every Alfa competitor? I haven't. That's the value they add.

They are not on a bung from any manufacturer. Their duty is to their readers, not those that fill their advertising coffers (why else would Alfa advertise still in the magazines that slate them?).

I agree that there are some boringly predictable patterns that appear in the mags (esp Autocar) when a new Alfa is launched. It goes:

1) New Alfa driven in Italy. Called 'world-beater'. BMW and Audi should 'watch out'.
2) Competitors to new Alfa driven to Italy and compared. New Alfa wins. 'but we'll have to wait to see how it performs in the UK'. This is their early warning system...
3) New Alfa stand-alone tested in the UK. Still great, but doubts creeping in over how in fairs here on UK roads and in RHD
4) The Big Group Test against the BMW and Audi. Alfa loses on everything, plus doubts raised over future resale value; a value that would have been fine had the mag not shaken the car's used value prospects by questioning what its used car value might be...

Remember, it is these mags that constantly praise Alfa's styling, the V6 engine, the car's verve. Who gives two hoots if they lose to a BMW?

A group test isn't just there to tell you which car is best. It's there to help you suss out which car is right for you. What Car? (I think) did a group test between the Alfa GT, a Mazda RX-8 and something else that escapes me now. Of course, the Alfa lost. But we learnt it bubbled with character, had ample grip and more charm and style than the other two cars put together. It may have lost, but for me it won. An Alfa must always 'win' at being an Alfa...I couldn't give a fig for whether in a dry clinical way it 'wins' over a Mazda.

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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Good points Scudetto. So true that you can guess what they'll write most of the time and sadly this is the case in most forms of media, including the more serious stuff that causes more strife than a car mag ever could.

It strikes me the media likes to justify the upholding of stereotypes by living a bizarre lie that it magically reflects public opinion. In fact a more accurate interpretation would be that it is easy for the media to work with stereotypes and, perhaps more to the point, easier to sell copies if it tells people what it believes they wish to hear/read.

The only point you make that I would dispute, Scudetto, is the idea that journos have a loyalty to their readers. They need to attract readers, yes, but they need to attract them so they can sell more/more expensive advertising, which keeps them in business.

Manufacturers will often buy space whether a mag gives them good reviews or not because that's where a lot of people buying a car will look...and, thankfully, some of them will be capable of making their own minds up.

Rant over.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

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Originally Posted by Timinho View Post
The only point you make that I would dispute, Scudetto, is the idea that journos have a loyalty to their readers. They need to attract readers, yes, but they need to attract them so they can sell more/more expensive advertising, which keeps them in business
No bud.

Readers are not stupid. If you're a Subaru fan, you have the measure of an Alfa Romeo or a Porsche. If you're a Lotus fan, you have the measure of an Audi or Ferrari etc.

Car fans are not daft. If a mag tells them the Vauxhall Chevette is the best car ever, and the car fan lays out big spondoolies on a Chevette that's rubbish, it won't be long before the mag looses credibilitiy with its readers. And with no readers, you have no circulation. And with no circulation, you have no advertisers...

BMW win - and will continue to win - group tests. As I said, that doesn't make them them 'best' car; it makes them the most appropriate car for the largest % of the magazine's readership. You could quite rightly argue that this then drives (and feeds) the smugness that BMW drivers have over the perceived 'superiority' of their cars. But that's a victory won by adding up the tick boxes, and seeing which car crosses the logic line first; a logic line that will be the measure that helps Joe Blow decide which car he's going to invest thousands in; and that means what's right for Joe Blow, based on those simplistic measures, is wrong for someone to whom the pleasure of driving extends beyond the things that can be measured.

I work in PR; I'm the other side of the journalist coin. I promise you, if it was as easy as bribing the press for a good review, I wouldn't half as stressed as I am. I state again; their duty is to their readers.

g
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

A long long time ago I wrote Car a letter about badge snobbery and a number of slack/lazy innacuracies in their treatment of the humble Skoda Favorit (a car I like immensely as it happens). The culprit then was Richard Bremner

e.g. they slagged it off for a having a rechargeable torch in the boot......but praised the rechargeable torch in the BMW glovebox..in the same issue. There were a number of other things as well I pointed out to them..only a few of which I can remember so I won't bore you by trying to recall them

They published my letter as it happens...so I must have made a case

Your letter is perfectly valid, and whether printed or not, it will have been read. Well done.

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Re: letter to CAR magazine

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Originally Posted by Scudetto View Post
No bud. Readers are not stupid.

I work in PR; I'm the other side of the journalist coin. I promise you, if it was as easy as bribing the press for a good review, I wouldn't half as stressed as I am. I state again; their duty is to their readers.

g
Sorry Scudetto, you misunderstood my point.

I'm not suggesting that journos are (successfully) bribed to do good reviews. Indeed, as you know, journos like to believe that nobody tells them what to do.

My point is that the market is full of good products and it's the easy/lazy option for journalists to revert to stereotypes in deciding what to say about a new model/where each car finishes in their group tests. Any selection criteria they apply to calculate the 'logical choice' is subjective; while, as you pointed out, they can also use less than factual arguments such as 'concerns' over resale values to push a car down the list.

And more specifically my point about loyalties - what the car mags need to do is present information in a way that appeals to their target audience, so that they sell lots of copies and the advertisers who want that audience to buy their products pay good money to take out the ads. The end game is not about integrity and balance, it's about making a profit.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

Quote: But two of his young colleagues(Chilton and Barry) subsequently complain that the 8C is too loud: "it's trying too hard , screaming for everybody to look at it, the neglected kid at school, standing on its head, back flipping and landing ta-da! with outstretched arms. 'Look, Alfa is back it's saying. 'Remember us?'" says Barry while the bashful Chilton agrees: "its actually a little bit over-done."

Those comments really pee me off, the point of Alfas is to make driving an event, that's why I love them. My GTV for example, as humble as it is, does this, right from the way it looks to the way it sounds. OK, there are better cars out there, faster, better built etc, but what I love about my GTV is the feeling it gives you, it makes driving fun and a bit of a novelty rather than just taking you from A-B. The 8C seems to have the same thing going for it, it's not as good as it's rivals, but is perhaps more eventful, and that certaintly isn't something that should be criticised.
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Re: letter to CAR magazine

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Originally Posted by Timinho View Post
The end game is not about integrity and balance, it's about making a profit.
hello mister. we might have to agree to disagree on this one

if there is no integrity and balance, then there are no readers. And with no readers, there is no advertising. Or profit.

i would like to continue this well spirited debate, but i have to sleep now. maybe we can pick this up tomorrow? Even if we don't agree, it's a good debate to have.

g
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