Car: Here’s What’s Wrong with The Kansas City Star’s Automotive Section

To put it plainly, The Star sold out…

Once upon a time, the gentleman who writes car reviews for the newspaper – Tom Strongman – was a straight down the line automotive journalist. Never cutting edge, but legit.

No mas.

A few years back the Star decided to follow the money and circle the journalistic wagons around its key remaining local advertisers. As in car dealers. To do so, it needed to abandon what remained of its automotive objectivity. So it relabeled the weekly sections as advertising – just prominently enough to claim the high road but low key enough that most readers wouldn’t notice.

Very slick…

Question is, why? Legit automotive journalists like Car & Driver, Road & Track and Motor Trend  lay down plenty of automotive attaboys, but they also cast a critical eye when reviewing. Despite the allure of the almighty advertising buck.

Remember what C&D said about the new Ford Explorer -one of the mag’s biggest advertisers?

"Despite Ford’s claims that the new engine is 32 percent more efficient than the old V-8, we got only 18 mpg out of the Explorer. While that’s better than the 16 we got in the previous truck, it’s still 2 mpg off the last (Honda) Pilot we tested."

That took, you know, balls.

Now flash forward to the headline atop today’s Strongman review of the Chevrolet Cruz Eco:

"Cruze Eco fuel economy rivals that of a hybrid."

Allow me to explain how bogus that is; with City mileage of 26, the tested Cruze Eco barely matches a Toyota Corolla.

In other words, it’s misleading.

While there have been bogus "hybrids" like the Chevy’s Malibu that only got 24 mpg in the city, knowlegeable buyers are keenly aware that Honda’s Civic Hybrid gets 40 City, Toyota’s Prius 51, even Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid delivers 35.

And while Strongman might arue his review clearly states the Cruze Eco "delivers highway fuel economy that is similar to a hybrid," that claim is totally bogus.

For two reasons.

The first being that highway mileage is unaffected by hybrid systems. Hybrid systems operate in stop-and-go city driving. Not on the highway where their gas engines take over. So there’s really no comparison to be made.

Second, automatic transmission equippeds Sonata Hybrid get 40 mpg Highway, Civic Hybrids 43, the Prius 48.

No horse race there.

Here’s the bottom line:

if the Star wants any true credibilty with readers for its car section it needs to drop the advertising section tag, restore Strongman’s journalstic credentials, stop sucking up to manufactures and start telling it like it is.

Is that too much to ask?

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8 Responses to Car: Here’s What’s Wrong with The Kansas City Star’s Automotive Section

  1. Gerald Bostock says:

    the truth
    All these years masquerading as an arsty-fartsy type, and now it turns out HC Jr. is motorhead.

  2. JustSean says:

    C’mon man
    Hearne I like you’re writing in general and I enjoy your blog, but I can’t sit by and read all this nonsense you keep writing about cars. I read all the same rags you do about cars, C&D and MotorTrend. I also subscribe to Automobile, AutoWeek, BMW Magazine and Toyota Trails (Road and Track is garbage). The thing that’s gotten me riled up about your car writing is: A) You stole a complete article out of the new C&D you were reading on the crapper and quoted as a blog post B) This post blasting Strongman for his EPA quotes on the Cruze eco (actual EPA hwy mpg of 42), you’re right about city driving bonuses of having a hybrid but for Joe Schmo commuting from Lawrence, Blue Springs, or south Olathe I think he’s spot on. Not every body lives at 39th and Main and drives stop and go to downtown. Not in KC. Plus you don’t have to pay the price of having “Hybrid” printed on the side of your car. That may hurt your image at the farmers market on Saturday, but who cares when you’ve got to fill that SOB up at home in Peculiar? C) The Fiat 500 is still junk, it may run for 1,000,000 miles, but it looks like a vw bug only crappier and is slower D) Glazier’s Lotus is a chick magnet, he’ll sell it in less than 2 years because it rides like crap and he doesn’t go to a track to run it (because KC doesn’t have one) E) The sad reality of it is the perfect cars for KC are the Malibu, F-150, and Escape because they are made here, not the best in class but at least they’re made locally and perform well in their respective classes. Well the the Escape only because of the hybrid option.

    You did nail the KC Auto Show head on though. Nothing special there, other than the 1955(6?) Mercedes SLS and the modern version of it. Although out of all the cars that were there if I had to pick one to take it would be the Porsche Panamera. “Honey, strap yourself and the kids in we’re going to top this out today. What? Why don’t you want to go 175?” Or the Caddy CTS-V coupe, but man it’s got a big ol’ butt. Stop being a pussy, it’s not like you actually commute to a job.

    That reminds me of point E) complaining about the Corvette’s MPG, holy crap seriously? That MF’er has 400 HP and you’re bitching about it only getting 26 Hwy MPG. 400 HP homegrown American super-car HP for 50k? It competes with European cars that cost twice as much and may not beat them but is just barely a beat behind them. Yes please!

    I really hope you were trying to turn on some hippy chick with all your car talk. If you want (or want your readers to believe you want) a cheap car that get’s 50 MPG get on eBay and find a Honda CRX HP. Please, please forget the stupid Fiat 500, and all the over priced make yourself feel good “hybrids” . Dumb. Dumb as a DumbForAll (aks Smart 4two.)

    Well that is all for now.

  3. smartman says:

    Motorhead
    Check out the new DVD, Lemmy Kilmister 51% motherfucker 49% sonofabitch.

    STAR spelled backwards is RATS. Just sayin.

    Again, if you’re so concerned about MPG get a motorcycle.

  4. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hey, I wrote car reviews for the Star’s Indulge magazine for over a year. Write them for The Hills now.

    Briefly, I’ve owned two WRXs, one 280Z, one Porsche, three MGs, five Alfas and two Fiats. And in a nod to your artsy-fartsy reference, one Renault LeCar

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    Easy, dude. I reported and critiqued – not stole – a small portion of a small item in C&D – giving the magazine full credit.

    And do your homework – I did mine – the Cruze Eco manual gets 42 highway, not the auto Strongman tested. The cars I compared it to also had auto transmissions. Besides, did you not read what I wrote? The highway mileage on true hybrids is irrelevant. That’s why their city mileage is higher. You don’t buy a hybrid for the highway mileage. Although the 48 on my Prius ain’t bad.

  6. BarKeeper says:

    All the Sellouts
    If they weren’t in bed with advertisers, the Star and the TV stations would have long ago exposed the dirtiest of all automotive secrets: the Documentary Fee.
    State law requires the dealer to furnish the buyer with proper paperwork when the sale is completed, but the lowlife dealers charge the already-hosed customer another two or three hundred bucks to fill out the title.
    Pure profit, undeserved and unearned. Just a nice gratuity for the dealer at the end of the gruesome fleecing process.
    You’ll never see one word about this injustice from the media….they are bought and paid for, and would never risk the wrath of the dealers who buy ads.

  7. Hearne says:

    I don’t know, I’ve paid doc fees all over the country
    You wheel and you deal, then you go in to close and here they come. Like you, I don’t like them, and some dealers are more up front than others about explaining them up front.

    But the fact is car dealers are in business to make money and unless it’s illegal – which I doubt that it is – I don’t see what there is to do an expose on. Businesses can charge what they want/think they need to to stay in business is how I look at it.

    Think I was able to get one reduced a few years back on a new Civic Hybrid in Tennessee.

    Hey, I wasn’t thrilled about $7 a slice pizza at the Auto Show, so I took my daughter Liza to Oak Park Mall yesterday instead and bit a food poisoning bullet at Panda Express instead. Kinda wish I’d popped for the pizza.

  8. BarKeeper says:

    Doc Fees…On Second Thought
    Well, hell yeah. I guess it is worth two or three hundred bucks to have my name typed into the buyers box on the back of a car title. I guess I was just being petty.
    After being totally gutted on price, cheated out of your trade-in’s actual value; and stabbed on financing and extended warranties, what the heck is another few hundred for the kindly old half-starved car dealer with his brand new twin engine airplane, a huge place at the Lake, another one in Aspen, and a boat longer than a football field?
    Sorry I brought it up. Really.

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