The Economics Of Press Cars

July 7, 2015 in Daily Bulletin

When a new car is launched it is reviewed by automobile experts such as Matt Hardigree, who delved into the economics of handing out cars for reviewers to write about:

  • Those who loan out a car to be reviewed carefully analyze the journalist that it is being loaned to and ensure that the car is loaded with the additional optional features that the reviewer likes.
  • The car is also customized for the environment. If it is going to the north east then it’ll come with steering wheel and seat warmers.
  • They don’t necessary get all the options. For example a review car probably won’t have the sun-roof feature because this can hurt fuel economy and manufacturers don’t want that written about.
  • After the car has been selected it is ‘broken in’ by being driven a few hundred miles to make sure that there are no issues with it.
  • Before the car is delivered the gas station closest to the reviewer is found so that the reviewer gets a full tank. They are not required to refill it before returning the car.
  • The reviewer normally gets to drive it for around a week before it is handed off to the next reviewer.
  • Manufacturers will monitor what the reviewer has to say and upgrade any parts that are getting negative reviews.
  • Parts such as polished chrome wheels will be replaced rather than repaired to ensure that the vehicle gets the best possible press.
  • Each car will be driven by around 15 journalists. Manufacturers make sure it ends with less than 10,000 miles so it can be auctioned off. Final buyers don’t know that it was a press review car once.
  • In general sending a car to be reviewed costs about $2,800 per journalist – assuming that there is no damage to the car which reviewers are not liable for.
  • If journalists write positive things about the car then the manufacturer may pay the publication to use quotes from the positive reviews in advertizements.
  • All of this can create a conflict of interest. This is why some publications such as Consumer Reports outright buys the cars it reviews – in secret so the car manufacturer can’t fine tune the car for the reviewer.
  • Hardigree, the author of the article, goes through about 25 review cars a year.

The full article takes a much deeper dive into the economics of the industry and provides many more fascinating details. It is worth a read over here, and worth considering the next time you read a car review.

Source: Jalopnik