Monday, June 8, 2009

When journalism is a bit hard... can always turn to advertising. That's clearly what reporter James Ihaka was told to do yesterday in this article, where "bad news for GM has prompted a lot of interest from prospective buyers at one Hamilton showroom":

The great grey cloud of the global recession does have a silver lining - for petrolheads at least.

The latest luxury model of Cadillac, the CTS, has dropped in price from $100,000 to around $63,000 after the collapse of General Motors. More than 80 of the cars have been snapped up by a Hamilton dealer but whether they are a good deal or not is a question dividing some in the motor industry.

Walter van den Engel, dealer principal of Ebbett Cadillac, said his Hamilton showroom had been "completely swamped" with prospective buyers since buying up the stock.

I can only imagine it will be even more swampy after getting a shoutout in the country's largest daily newspaper. You can't even get the full effect from the website - unlike the print edition, it doesn't have a shiny red photo of a Cadillac and a lowdown of what's under the bonnet:
  • 3.6 litre direct-injection V6 petrol engine.
  • 227kW/6400rpm.
  • 370Nm of torque at 5200rpm.
  • Six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.
  • Rear-wheel drive.
  • Priced from $63,000.
Interestingly enough, the 'article' is placed right next to an 'actual' car ad for an almost identical looking Honda, that has all the same sort of information. If you squint, it's reasonably hard to tell which is which. Weird!

To be fair, it's not long before people in the car industry that James Ihaka talks to begin to slag off the cars. According to car writer Clive Matthew-Wilson:
"It's an obscure brand from a bankrupt company in the middle of a recession," he said. "American cars would never personally be anywhere near the top of my list in terms of reliable vehicles. That was one of the reasons why GM went broke in the first place ... [buying a luxury car is] not an investment but more a way of burning money."
I'm not a qualified marketer, but it seems like this sort of undermines the rest of the ad. Shrug. Funnily enough, this isn't the only time I have thought this while leafing through today's Herald. Just across the page on A2 is a large article headlined "Signs of stability in property market":
The property market is showing signs of stabilising, but an industry expert says the latest QV statistics are merely a "blip" and the market will continue to slide.
Get back to me when someone actually has some clue about what's happening, ok? I have written before about the incessant talking-up of the housing market in the front pages of the Herald, and was going to do so again on Friday when two articles appeared about house prices. Also on page A2 of Friday's Herald was the article "House prices and sale numbers up"; meanwhile, in the Business Herald on the same day was a piece entitled "Housing lift unlikely to last, warn economists." (I'm still not sure whether economists had said this or whether the Herald is exhorting us to let them know.) Why the not-so-subtle difference in emphasis? Would it make me a gibbering conspiracy theorist to suggest that the real-estate industry, who had placed an expensively glossy-looking advertising supplement in that day's paper, might not have been well pleased with a critical article (or even just headline - most people probably don't read past those) on the second page of the paper?

Maybe that's accurate, and maybe it's not - maybe I'm giving the cunning masterminds at the Herald all-too-much credit. But I think it's safe to say that this whole housing mess/economic crisis has shown us, if we didn't know it already, that economists aren't really much good at predicting anything other than their next birthday. When the people who spent $63,000 on a Cadillac ('worth' $100,000) are trying to flog it for a back rub and a pack of gum in six month's time, don't look at me: James Ihaka is thattaway.


  1. Love to know what makes Cadillac an "obscure" brand. That car writer seems barely more cluefull than Ihaka.

  2. Didn't James Ihaka use to play gutair for Smashing Pumpkins? Talk about a fall from grace...

  3. "a lowdown of what's under the bonnet"

    Any mention of fuel efficiency? No? Funny that.

  4. Memo to John Keys: the honeymoon is over.
    Should we have compulsory car seats up to age 10?

    "This just Another example of Nazi NZ at work.
    John Keys - all he cares about is money money money!"

    That must be the John Keys who built his fortune on designing ever-more expensive and unnecessary car seats.

  5. o fsm, james, more uodates, I reckon the nz herald needs more than your update on a slack basis...


    Front page article on the Herald website, with PHOTO "...wrote to Prime Minister John Key today outlining her version of events, saying she hoped to retain her anonymity. That proved wishful thinking - tonight her name was being carried on news websites and in television news reports."


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  8. When blogging is a bit hard...

  9. My news-rage hard-on is going a little limp... I need some stimulation...

  10. Did anyone read the cover "story" in the June 6-12 Listener?

    I'd love to see James pick it apart. I'd do it myself, but I get so news ragey at its devotion of 5 pages to a story that reiterates over and over a US Republican strategist and forecaster's claims that NZ is scary and "has no friends" without ever delving into the supporting evidence or even logic of the claim (let alone the credibility of the interviewee) that I have to go sit in a corner and mediate and inhale lavender etc to prevent me from doing injury to myself or others.

    Please someone make it funny so I can laugh out the rage...

  11. Maybe James needs to recruit one or two sidekicks?
    There have been a couple of keen commenters that seem onto it.

  12. "My news-rage hard-on is going a little limp... I need some stimulation..."

    How pleasant. What a caveman.

  13. Well you know what they say about economists,the've predicted 12 of our last 5 recessions.Talk about accuracy.

  14. Hope you're okay, just busy.

  15. He's been tracked down by the Herald O_o

  16. Where you at Holmes? (see what I did there? little HoS prompting? ;-) )