Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Slow Your Roll There, Billy: In Response to Bill Caswell's "The Death Of BMW’s M Brand", an automotive site loved by auto enthusiasts, is not one known as a bastion of journalistic integrity. Rather, Jalopnik is usually a place where second-rate automotive journalists will write their hearts out about popculture topic A that has little, if anything to do with cars.
Perhaps it was unsavory of me to liken Jalopnik "writers" to be "second-rate," yes. But they have gone on long enough spouting absurdities. The site has no qualms "calling it as they see it." Right. As if it isn't respectful enough to say flat out that Chevy is a brand that "lies." Future journalists, take note what as to what not to do here.

What does Jalopnik stand for then? Everything they produce is done with an air of rebellion, or speaking from the "people's" point of view. They tend to bash large, corporate companies with little dignity or professionalism. Click Here to see what I mean

I'm studying to be a journalist. And while I don't yet have a degree, I know well enough to tell you not to outright disparage a potential business partner in the future. Over time, companies can change. Why chance your relationship with a big company like Bank of America?  Who knows, your next paycheck could be coming from them and now wouldn't it be awfully tragic if they forgot one of your zeros?

If there's one thing I learned thus far in studying journalism is to treat everyone with respect when writing. Jalopnik presents the "news" as if a tyranny is in power. Everything is touted as if it's absolutely urgent and critical that you become an extremist/activist about the matter. No room for casual, sensible reading here. The site exists purely as if to "right" the "wrongs" of dastardly corporate America. Oh no! Hide your kids!

It's plausible that Jalopnik articles read like Stephen King novels because that's what sells: making a mountain out of a molehill, especially on slow news days, for which there are a great many in the auto industry. Like, oh, say, this one. Really, Jalopnik? 

Take Top Gear, for instance. Whenever Jeremy Clarkson says a diabolically absurd comment about a car, like "the ride is as comfortable as being shot," laughter and intrigue are caused. But mostly laughter. I think that's what Jalopnik is after in their writing: absurdity so extreme as to make nearly everything newsworthy, even this. This. Or this sad excuse for a post.

Then the problem, you see, with Jalopnik is that everything posted on their glorified blog site (says me, I know) is all lauded to be 100% accurate.

As a hopeful journalist, I realize it is impossible to eliminate a writer's subjectivity. However, it is the journalist's constant objective to keep subjectivity in check. The majority of Jalopnik's "reporting" is wholly subjective. No fact-checking or verifying here. Just straight, "in-your-face extreme awesomeness." Okay, I admit, Jalopnik isn't that bad, although the website produces content that is suitable for the internet, where knee-jerk reactions, "Like" buttons, Tweets and that's-so-two-seconds-ago updates are king.

So in short, is a website for automotive enthusiasts to read hyperbolic, absurd and ill-supported claims. It's like comfort food... for people who enjoy being brainwashed.

Because there are few sites that are as savvy, provide as frequent updates or display an aptitude for the internet and its many functions as Jalopnik, it remains a well-trusted source of news for auto enthusiasts. As half (based on highly-scientific guestimation methods) of all the content on the internet is baloney, nothing matters so long as it's wrapped in a visually-appealing, well-written package. (And after saying that, who knows, maybe even that very statement is false! Who can you trust these days?!)

That last paragraph was deliberate. It was meant to show that on the internet, you can essentially get away with saying anything you so desire. Which is why if Jalopnik tried to make a magazine, they would be so encumbered financially by lawsuits, they could no longer survive.


The reason I'm writing this is to take offense to a little piece written by Bill Caswell. It goes like this.

Caswell's "article" takes no prisoners on BMW's M Division, something for which he clearly feels rather strong about, given his history with the brand. Even so, there is no reason to completely bash the brand. After all, if anything, BMW does still stand for front-engined, rear-wheel drive cars that have the closest 50/50 weight distributions out of any other car brand. Now that's somewhat of an anomoly today in this world of cost-cutting, soulless, mass-produced front-wheel drive cars that handle and feel like you-know what. Yet that's what sells in high numbers, so are the manufacturers (Honda, Kia, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan and Suzuki) to blame?

The Death Of BMW’s M Brand focuses mostly on the Lime Rock Park M3 Coupe. Caswell also uses the X5M and X6M respectively as evidence to support his position as well.

Even Billy Auberlen's getting in on the action!

It's disconcerting to see a trusted source on the internet to have a fallout with a hallmark racing brand and to use that energy to make the tens of thousands that read his article believe the same.

You see, I don't feel BMW deserved such unwarranted negative publicity in the slightest. Sure, readers should know by now how positively off-the-wall Jalopnik is with its inflammatory content, but the site consistently churns out content that is believable enough (albeit heavily slanted) and if nothing else, entertaining for how inane it is. So therefore, readers will come back. And back. And back again. Just to watch the fireworks. Nothing deserves to be taken seriously on the site. Yellow journalism is being reborn right here before our eyes.

Okay Caswell. If you want to talk about "poser" brands, I can name several that fall under that category right off the top of my head that will change your mind about BMW's "poser-ish-ness." Let's go.

Lamborghini. The cars are meant for aristocratic-types to flaunt their wealth and to be seen in public. Is there any other good reason to paint a car lime green, bright orange or highlighter yellow?

If you haven't yet seen this video, skip ahead to the 1:30-mark and watch as Jethro Bovingdon, Car and Driver's European correspondent gets hundreds of gazes from the public. Rich people love to be seen..  

Racing pedigree? I think not. Look at the marque's spotty racing history. "Lamborghini reportedly once told Ferrari that his cars were “rubbish” and too influenced by racing designs." So why does BMW deserve all the flak now, Bill?

Bugatti. For rappers and for bedroom posters, the million-dollar-plus car manufacturer makes anything but race cars. The sub-3-second 0-60 time and racy paint of the Super Sport model may make you think otherwise, but good luck rotating the 4,162 lb (1,888 kg) pig of a car round a track. And above all, I'm sure it's the car's roughly $2.4-million-pricetag that's kept it off racetracks across the world.

Birdman being "fly" next to his Bugatti Veyron. See what I did there?

Maserati. Like Bugatti, there's plenty of luxury and brute power, but not so much road-gripping performance and a successful racing record. The same could be said for the Italian brand. "Where have the good ol' days of Maserati in F1 gone?" Writer X could then continue to cry about how Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio will forever be gone and how the brand will never regain its former glory. According to Maserati's official website, the marque's last race was in 2008 and has remained a "poser" brand ever since. See Bill, I can throw that word around quite loosely too!

What's keeping you from picking on BMW's prime competitor, Mercedes, Caswell? What does their car club do? Golf outings and wine tastings are the car club's (if it can even be called such) forté. Alright, now there's nothing BMW has done that has come closer to being as poser-y as that!

And as for Benz's cars, what does the street version have to do with its DTM racing equivalent? Take the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe, for example. It doesn't even share the same V8-powered powerplant (the DTM car has a 4.0-liter V8, while the street version has a 6.2-liter) and it weighs a massive 3900 lbs. (1772.7 kg) compared with the racecar's measly 2314.9 lbs. (1050 kg). That's a a 1,586lb.-difference for you non-math types! How is that for a poser machine?! It's meant more for businessmen to cool their heads on interstates after a stressful day at work more than it is meant as a racing machine.

Sporty, yes, but this Merc could really lose a few pounds!

The BMW M3 then, has far more in common with its racing counterpart than the 'Merc probably ever will (thanks to Mercedes insistence to value luxury as much as, if not more than performance). In a recent Road & Track feature, Tommy Milner, of Corvette Racing fame took the street E92 M3 and compared with the M3 GT.

Do you ever wonder if he's getting too old to be called "Tommy?" 

When comparing the GT to its road-legal counterpart, Milner noted that "This car is always fun to drive. It’s an M3. In one way, it’s just like an M3 road car with slicks and a carbon-fiber body. But it’s quite a bit different in that the speeds are way higher. It feels like a street-car M3 that has been on steroids for many, many years."

"It's an M3."

According to Milner, another similarity links the street- and track-versions is that "in high-speed corners such as Turns 1, 2 and 3, just like the M3 road car." Finally, (and this couldn't be more icing-on-the-cake-ness right here) Milner said, “Both M3s are very much BMWs. And both have 50/50 weight distribution, which makes them so easy to drive. You can get in either car and immediately feel comfortable."

There are those who have BMWs and wish they had one. 

Let's not even get started with the JDM, scene, yo. The whole thing has been inspired by nothing more than the Fast and the Furious movies, and the drivers can be even more poser-ish. Why do Civics with no more than a poorly-installed body kit need racing harnesses? Why do Nissan Skylines need nitrous? Why do Supras need enormous, two-piece chrome wheels? These wannabes are anything but racing material. It's all for the sake of posing. None of the cars at your local meet will ever see an autocross, rallycross, let alone track.

Dang, yo, that's so cool... yo.

So, mister Billy Caswell, be aware of what you're talking about before you spout such insanity. BMW is doing a hell of a lot more to keep racing alive than most manufacturers.

According to this, "BMW is deeply involved in motorsports: from the technology  transfer and know-how learned on track being applied to their road cars, resulting in some of the best handling vehicles ever, to their young drivers program in Formula BMW promoting young talent and helping them enter the world of professional motorsport." There's no chance half of that could be said for, well, half of the car brands out there!
Every time you try to defy this brand, it will only come to bite you in the butt! Be wise with your words and respect every possible business partner for the future! Here's to the Bavarian company that will prove its skeptics wrong time, and time again! 


Anonymous said...

Its a shame u completely missed the point of Bill's article

Anonymous said...

"Respect every possible business partner?" And you call yourself a journalist? You miss completely the point of journalism. Stay in school, kid, looks like you're not yet to the class that teaches you what journalism actually is.

Anonymous said...

Dude his article was about BMW not any of the other brands you mentioned, you sir are retarded.

Anonymous said...

I see that you're about as ready for journalism, as you are for racing.

Anonymous said...

hey man! thanks for taking the time to further promote my writing!

But the guy above is write. You missed the whole point. But totally proved my point when you felt the need to compare BMWs M brand to Mercedes and Lamborghini and not Porsche, their longtime competitor at the track. And I hope you know how different the M3 alms car is? It doesnt even use the same front suspension principals. Every 3 series and M3 since the beginning has been a mcpherson front strut. But not the BMW race car, its double a arms like a corvette. And it doesnt use a standard BMW driveline like the M3, it uses a the corvette. But you believed a paid race car driver's comparison that the street car was just like the track car because it was published in a magazine of journalistic excellence, road and track?

Oh and for the record, I am not a journalist, never have been, never want to be one. There are plenty of people who can repeat the facts of a press release about a new car launch and get the facts right. Not many who can communicate what its like to drive a car and their opinions of it. I prefer to drive the car, to tell the story of what its like to go on an adventure with the car. My opinions of it and my adventure in my own words. Too many journalists are observers of life. And they strive to be the most professional observers of life, like its a higher calling. I prefer to live life, to be a participant, and to share those feelings and emotions with readers. you can google for the facts elsewhere - pull them from the corporate site like the rest of the journalists.

So good luck on your endevors and try rereading my article and see if you cant see the point Im making because I think you missed it. If youre who I think you are you drive a S54 powered E30, not a modern M pig like they've been selling to the posers for the past decade. You should know better. And as someone going into club racing you should realize BMW is the worst company on the grid. They havent supported one track day or race enthusiast in over 20 years when every other manufacturer has amazing programs in place. And if you were old enough, you would remember a day where the BMW CCA track days were full of club racers, not gutted track cars but actual racers. now there are a handful. Almost every BMW guy I went to the track with over the past decade now owns a porsche.

Bill Caswell

Andrew said...

Comment Part I:

“If there’s one thing I learned thus far in studying journalism is [sic] to treat everyone with respect when writing.”

Poor grammar and sentence structure aside, this sentence couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, it’s the exact antithesis of journalism. If there’s one thing a journalist should never do, it’s pander. Pandering is the defining line between journalism and pathetic PR-humping in the hopes that the powers that be will throw you a bone at some point. If you sit around kowtowing to every brand in existence, operating under the notion that some day they might be signing your checks, you have neutered yourself as a journalist. You have lost your edge.

Biting the hand that feeds you is not unheard of in automotive journalism. Total 911 Magazine has given negative points regarding the 991, yet you don’t see Porsche revolting and cutting them off for not posting anything but adulation. Top Gear receives press cars like rich kids receive presents they don’t deserve and can’t appreciate, and you don’t see them stopping their criticality. Jalopnik is the same; they still receive many press cars and have good, close relations with many automotive manufacturers. PR, on the whole, is good for a company, whether positive or negative. Perhaps you haven’t taken that class yet.

It’s a fact that Chevy did misrepresent the Volt from the outset of its concept. It is not all electric (or even close thereto), and the drivetrain is fundamentally different than was initially hinted. Yes, there is a certain degree of snarky aggrandizing that took place within that headline, but a lie is still a lie. It takes balls to go head-to-head with major automotive manufacturers, and good journalists are not eunuchs.

Good journalism, the kind that wins Pulitzers, isn’t a bunch of happy-go-lucky prose that vomits rainbows and sprinkles and saves burning orphans. It’s the kind that drives people to think, drives people to consider viewpoints outside their own, words that can incite riots in the streets and protests on the sidewalk. If you want to be stuck making barely over minimum wage while you pen obituaries and fluff pieces about puppy fashion shows, then you’re not a journalist. You’re not trying to dig as deep into a story as you can. If anything, Jalopnik does a great job of that.

Their work regarding Ferrari’s overpowered press cars was a fantastic piece of journalism, so much so in fact that Ferrari basically agreed with the piece by banning Jalopnik from reviewing their cars in the future. Their Bank of America piece follows along the same lines – they report that B-of-A-hired contractors have a history of shady tactics, and Bank of America themselves are unwilling to help homeowners recover their possessions. Tie that in with their shady foreclosure robo-signings and other improprieties against the general public, and yes, you can begin to see that they’re not a company that cares about much more than themselves and their bottom line. But you’d have to, you know, read the news and be involved in these kinds of discussions to notice that. Yes, over time, companies can change, but you can always write another piece later about how they’ve changed, rather than wait around for them to get better.

Andrew said...

Comment Part III:

The same goes for Bugatti. Are they flaunting their motorsport prowess while diluting the shit out of their brand? No. They are creating incredibly well-engineered status symbols that are some of the fastest cars on the planet. They aren’t marketing themselves as track-ready beasts that you can drive on the street. There is nothing poser about owning a Veyron if you appreciate the extreme amounts of engineering prowess that went into it. And if extreme prices are what keep owners off the track, the owners of F40s and FXXs would like to provide a counter-argument there. The Bugatti is not pretending to be something that it isn’t. However, the M brand is slowly doing more and more of that.

Maserati? The same thing. They produce luxurious GT cars – grand tourers, meant more for the Autobahn than the ‘Ring, cars that will take you around in style with some speed as well. Their current lineup puts no focus on motorsport; again, these cars are being marketed correctly and to the right people.

Your arguments surrounding AMG are much closer to truth than anything else you mentioned above. However, AMG is a skunkworks division of M-B that was acquired for their ability to put ridiculous motors into regular cars. Some are for the road, some are for the track. That being said, the C-class AMG is not meant to be a road going derivative of any sort of motorsport-based car. AMG’s existence was not based upon creation of homologated street models of racecars. M, on the other hand, was. Notice I use the past tense there.

As a matter of fact, BMW is suffering from an identity crisis steeped in brand dilution and qualities that might be deemed poser. M was originally created to produce homologated versions of race cars. They branched out slightly with the first M5, as it wasn’t a homologated version of anything, but it was still the fastest sedan in the world at that point, and it was built by hand. As time went on, it went from homologations to track-ready cars for the street. They still held that motorsport heritage in high regard. But now, we have M badges slapped onto grocery-getters, seven different versions of the same damn car (see Lime Rock M3) and things of that nature. They’ve changed M to mean a standard car with a big-ass motor shoved into it, especially with the X5M and X6M. How many international racing series are these cars participating in? They’re just doing it to dilute the M brand, to give people more shiny new things to buy, to increase their profits. The original M was not based on swelling up the brand’s bottom line, but selling just enough cars for it to participate in the expensive hobby of internationally sanctioned racing series.

Andrew said...

Comment Part II

I find an inherent irony in your call to treat everybody with respect, and then you go on to lambast not just one, but several brands. Are you not worried that you may have to cover them once you’ve graduated and become a journalist? “Do as I say, not as I do,” seems to be a much more prevalent way of thinking in today’s society, especially in politics, but that’s not part of this discussion.

Your mention of slow news days shows just how green you are in terms of experience in the greater journalistic sphere. Advertisers pour money into websites to keep them running, as it’s not exactly cheap to set up a server farm capable of providing bandwidth to hundreds of thousands of unique views per day. Those advertisers need to see things on that website in order to keep themselves placated; after all, nobody likes dumping money into things that don’t really go anywhere. Slow news days are nobody’s fault, and they happen across all areas of journalism. You cannot blame a website for posting stories to keep traffic flowing in, that’s just the nature of the beast. You can try to change the fundamentals of online news aggregation, but good luck with that.

The fact that you lambast the social media plug-ins on Jalopnik also shows me that you’re just on the cusp of beginning to understand how digital journalism works in the twenty-first century. With the advent of social media, there exists a grand market for page views and advertising clicks. Again, the tie-in to operational expenses for the website is a major factor in the inclusion of these sorts of things. And again, there’s a hypocritical nature to your arguments, as you involve yourself in social media and even have sharing plug-ins built into your own posts.

Jalopnik does not often post contractions or apologies, because the large majority of the time, they’re right or very close to the truth. Trying to make a print magazine would not run them into lawsuits left and right, more so than their website posts do. Libel is libel, be it digital or print. Law doesn’t change between mediums. They do attempt to keep the facts straight, but nobody is right 100% of time. Not even God, provided he exists.

Anyway, now that I’ve fully addressed my feelings on your misguided attempts to define proper journalism, I can get to an actual retort regarding the Caswell article. First, after blasting Jalopnik left and right, you once again refer to them as a “trusted source on the internet.” Continuity is important in journalism, as is sticking to your guns. I wouldn’t call this a fallout; that’s reaching. It’s a genuine cause for concern in Caswell’s mind, and is something he believes is a misdirection taken by BMW, a brand he cherishes and wants to see succeed.

Your counter-argument to BMW being labeled as posers comes off as the subjective comments of a BMW fanboy and nothing more. BMW’s M brand, M standing for Motorsport, focuses on the – you guessed it – motorsport heritage of the brand. First of all, does Lamborghini even position itself as a car company that’s building track cars for track enthusiasts? No. It’s a luxury brand aiming for luxury owners first and foremost, with ridiculous power and performance as an addendum to that. Look at Jeremy Clarkson’s discussions of old Lambos – they were incredible V12-powered street cars that were hell-bent on killing their owner. They are meant to be spectacle, and are styled and sold as such. There’s nothing poser about that – they market exactly what they produce. Being ostentatious is the point of being in a Lamborghini, and the brand reflects that very well.

Andrew said...

Comment Part IV (sorry II came in out-of-order):

Part of it can be blamed on the brand itself, but the rest of the blame falls solely upon us, the consumer. We’ve come to want too much from our vehicles, and that goes especially for the higher-income owners of BMW. What purpose does Alcantara serve in a bred-from-racing vehicle? How much additional weight comes from bulky nav systems, expensive speakers and seven different ways to connect your iPod to the vehicle? People no longer want a racecar for the road; they want something that screams class and money while going very fast. Uncomfortable rides due to a strengthened chassis and manual transmission? Not for Mr. Businessman. We ourselves have become the posers, the ones who want everything without sacrificing anything, and that sort of attitude has caused a serious issue in the M division. Sound being piped into the cabin on the F10 M5? Jesus Christ; just make it louder. You want a performance car that’s still whisper-quiet unless you tell it not to be? How the hell is that based in reality, nonetheless motorsport? And now, to add salt to the wound, they have sub-M packages that just add fancy aero bits and other pointless accoutrements, to give people the idea that their car is more closely related to motorsport. Explain to me how putting an M-style front bumper on a non-M car is not a poser move, especially when it’s a factory option.

Yes, BMW still puts a lot of heart and soul into their motorsport workings, and they do great work in a variety of racing series. But they’ve given in to the relentless demands of the (misguided and entitled) consumer and created a whole line of vehicles that have strayed so far from the original formula. Yes, the E9x M3 is still a great car to drive, but there’s a lot of shit it could do without and still perform effortlessly. The M3 is not the issue here, and it never really was; it’s brand dilution and the introduction of pointless models that don’t further the motorsport heritage of the brand.

Essentially, you’re taking your displeasure with this article and blowing it up into this grandiose statement that not only attempts to discredit an entire website, but several major automotive manufacturers as well. It’s thinly-veiled subjectivity without even a hint of objectivity. This piece attempts to define journalism without actually participating in it. The only brand you mentioned that should be rated on its connection to motorsport is BMW and its M division. And given what I’ve mentioned above, it’s walked pretty damn far from the trail over the last ten years.

You want to know who’s doing it right? Look at Porsche. The 911 GT3 RS has racing seats and a roll cage from the factory. You think a BMW owner would be content with a roll cage? How would the car get all the groceries back from Whole Foods with a roll cage?! Oh noes!

You have a long way to go in your journalistic career, but the fact that you’re putting effort into it shows that once you understand more about the basic underpinnings of journalism, you’ll become an effective force. But that comes with time and experience.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I dont think his car is done. It's sitting in a shop (FMU), as he is having someone else do it

Anonymous said...

Bill's "article" was a shameless forum rant at best. Glad to see someone standing aganist the asses... I mean masses.

Anonymous said...

Wow I knew some fan bois were hurting after Caswells article but lol someone had to make a weaksauce rebuttal article and try to flame everything else under the sun?! (bro if you put that 5k into that car it would totally be better than 5k into this other car). Theres no point in even addressing any specifics in it because its such blatant fanboi crying. Get a clue.