Hype Editorial: Jalopnik, I Respectfully Disagree

Posted on 11.22.10 | Andrew Beckford 3 Comments

So, last week I was at the LA Auto Show in the Lotus Cars exhibit waiting for my turn to interview someone about the new Lotus line.  As I was standing around checking out the scenery my attention was grabbed by Lotus CEO Dany Bahar speaking with a few gentlemen and it was somewhat clear that Mr. Bahar was not happy.  From what I could hear, Dany was speaking to them in regards to the weight controversy (yes, that dead horse again).

Fast forward to that night when I was cruising my usual Internet hang outs and then I come across Jalopnik.com and see a post titled “Lotus Wants To Build Fatter Cars” and the photo was the exact scene that I had witnessed earlier that day.  It turned out that the guys who got the Lotus CEO ruffled was the Jalopnik crew.

They posted a short clip of what they over dramatically described as a “tongue lashing” handed to them by Mr. Bahar and it seems that it is their take that since safety regulations are not the only reason why the new Lotus line will be heavier than the current one then the new CEO is going against Lotus’ core value.

I do agree that Mr. Bahar does seem upset in their clip but Jalopnik’s original plan for their piece on Lotus was to have an engineer physically walk them around a current model Elise and the future model and show them all the places where weight was added and why.

I saw three problems with this plan. 

-First of all, the new line that Lotus had on display were all one off prototypes.  Very rarely does any OEM invite journalists to go through the ins and outs of technical aspects of a car that is still in the prototype stage.  Jalopnik is big but not that big.

-Secondly they wanted to do this in Lotus’ exhibit at the LA Auto Show.  The Lotus exhibit isn’t that big and there were many other journalists, and VIPs in the exhibit all waiting for time with people of note within the company.  To physically walk these dudes around just to show them where the new cars would be heavier seems a bit unfeasible in my opinion given the situation.

-Thirdly the entire point of Lotus being at the show (besides their motorsports announcement) was to showcase their up coming line.  This is not a situation in which an OEM would want to make a technical comparison of the new to the old especially based on an issue I am sure they are sick of hearing about. 

I don’t feel Jalopnik thought about these things before they attempted to produce their piece.  To them they saw it as providing an opportunity for Lotus to show that they haven’t forgotten about the core fans of the Lotus brand. 

While I could see Jalopnik’s point (if I squint real hard); I don’t necessarily agree with how they took just a few seconds of video and used it to unfairly paraphrase Mr. Bahar’s point and his reasoning behind the new direction of Lotus.

Just after the incident happened with Jalopnik I had the opportunity to interview Dany Bahar myself.  During the interview Dany spoke about the philosophy behind their new direction and the re-launch of the Lotus brand.  He addressed that although the new cars will be heavier than the current line they still aim to make each of the new cars the lightest in their segment.  He seemed quite passionate about trying to progress the Brand while still staying true to its core.  He continued his thought that it was more than just safety regulations that were the cause of any weight gain. 

He said as a result of trying to make their new models more parallel with what people want in a modern sports car a lot of things had to change.  Everything from standard equipment to making the car easier to get in and out of.  If anyone reading this has attempted to get in and out of a Lotus Elise or Exige knows exactly what he is talking about.  It isn’t easy!

I personally don’t think Jalopnik was being fair to Dany by using only a clip and passing it off as his fully illustrated point.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I love Jalopnik and I visit their site everyday but just because I like a media outlet doesn’t mean I am going to agree with everything they do.  As such I thought it was only fair that his FULL thoughts are made aware to anyone who may read the Jalopnik piece and come to a snap conclusion.  I wasn’t going to post this interview since the audio was bad but in this case I feel its necessary to put it out there.  So when you watch my interview be sure to turn your volume up.

I can’t embed Jalopnik’s clip so I invite you to check out their post first and watch their clip.  Then view my interview embedded below.  It is quite long so if you want to get to the heart of what Dany was really trying to say skip to the 3:45 mark or so and you’ll see that Mr. Bahar’s first priority is to keep the loyal fans happy in the best way he can while also trying to progress the Lotus brand.

My interview:

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 raywert // Nov 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Well, for starters, our story didn’t run that night. It ran the next day.

    But that’s neither here nor there. Matter at hand — you’re spot on with why were there and what our storyline was supposed to be. But you’re wrong about how it came about. This wasn’t a story we were trying to spring on Lotus — we were there to complete a story we’d already OK’ed with them.

    I ran the story idea past Lotus US PR chief Kevin Smith an hour and a half earlier. He was excited about the idea and helped us to set our meeting up with Lotus’ chief engineer.

    Keep in mind that after OK’ing the story — which only was pitched to them after we’d had our interview with Bob Lutz abruptly cancelled the day before with little to no explanation — they then made my team wait around for almost an hour for Lotus CEO Dany Bahar to make the decision to jump in front of our story and act like an ass to them.

    If Bahar had decided to give a reasoned response to our question, that would have been one thing, but for him to waste hours of our time just to casually, arrogantly and prickishly (yeah, I just made that up) dismiss the premise of our question — well, our post is what you get.

    An automaker CEO should know better.

  • 2 Andrew Beckford // Nov 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Forgive my error on the time table. I pretty much run event coverage by myself so frankly everything kind of blurs together.

    If your idea for the piece was pre-approved I think that should have been mentioned in the story that your team posted.

    Honestly with what was presented to me it just looks like the team came to them with an idea for a story, Lotus didn’t like the idea, Your team didn’t like that they didn’t like it so they posted the clip of Bahar being angry and kind of gave the finger to the CEO.

    I just think that even if that is the way things went down the response from Jalopnik could have been better.

    He gave a short response and your team put it up and wanted to let it speak for itself.

    However, your team’s reaction to his response was also short and doesn’t tell the whole story from your side either. So it kind of makes both sides look bad.

    So in a way it doesn’t seem like the post was fair to Bahar or Jalopnik itself.

  • 3 raywert // Nov 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Andrew — here’s a new post that should clarify things:

    http://jalopnik.com/5694750/lotus-explains-its-new+found-love-of-fatties

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