Wayne Gerdes Took Money From VW To Promote The “Clean” TDI

butthurt

Every one of TTAC’s leaders has had a defining moment. For Robert Farago, it was the day that he began the GM Death Watch. For Ed Niedermeyer, it was his move to the Wall Street Journal. For Bertel Schmitt, it was the “all ears” post. For me, it was the site reboot. For Derek, it was the Lincoln MKZ fuel-door controversy.

I’ve been waiting for Mark Stevenson, Derek’s successor, to find the right topic on which to bring his particular talents of tenacity and precision to bear. I’m not waiting any more.


For a few years now, there have been a couple of “secret” Facebook groups where the various morons and press-event laydowns and PR fluffers can congratulate each other for eating caviar on first-class flights and taking Bentley Mulsannes to their high-school reunions. Your humble author was long ago disinvited from these things because I didn’t have the sense to shut up and let the gravy train wobble gently beneath my feet.

My boss at TTAC, Mark Stevenson, happens to be a member of these groups. Today, he happened to read a disclosure by Wayne Gerdes, the proprietor of a site called “Clean MPG”, regarding a rather substantial payment that Gerdes received from Volkswagen for using the Passat TDI to set a Guiness World Record. Mark did the research really quickly and discovered that Gerdes had never disclosed his payment to his readers. When he challenged Gerdes on this, Wayne called for him to be banned from the secret groups and then invoked some kind of kindergarten-playground-style rule that anything disclosed on a secret Facebook group can’t, like, be used against you or something like that.

Mark laughed at that and proceeded to kick Gerdes in the ass. This is classic TTAC: uncovering corruption and mendacity wherever it can be found. I’m proud of Mark this evening and I’d encourage all of you to go read the story. It’s a small step towards restoring some of the luster to a very tarnished profession.

24 Replies to “Wayne Gerdes Took Money From VW To Promote The “Clean” TDI”

  1. Nick D

    If the smallest of OEM perks were provided in my industry, both the offeror and offeree would be paying huge fines, and Mr. Geddes would be in a federal prison.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      GM is well known in the industry for having a zero tolerance, “no, none, nothing” policy on employees accepting anything from vendors or prospective suppliers.

      Reply
  2. arbuckle

    Speaking of Ed, he apparently thinks that the *extent* of disclosure is not important, that an individual straight up getting a check from a company is the same as Lieberman gorging on Hyundai’s cheese platter, and it doesn’t really matter because everyone does it anyway.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Ed and I parted ways a few years ago, unfortunately. I think we did some great work together but our goals are no longer compatible and like his father Ed’s loyalty is both fragile and situational.

      Reply
  3. DeadWeight

    “My boss at TTAC, Mark Stevenson, happens to be a member of these groups. Today, he happened to read a disclosure by Wayne Gerdes, the proprietor of a site called “Clean MPG”, regarding a rather substantial payment that Gerdes received from Volkswagen for using the Passat TDI to set a Guiness World Record. ”

    How much is “rather substantial?”

    REALLY curious.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I think the number is $9,000. Not totally certain; I haven’t seen all the conversations.

      Reply
    • DeadWeight

      Good job, Mark.

      This is just another example of why the public has lost all trust in the “institution” that is the media and suspects collusion between manufacturers of vehicles and anyone who reviews such vehicles despite claiming to be objective (and why Consumer Reports sets the trustworthy/credible bar inasmuch as they buy the vehicles they test in an anonymous manner, and refuse any advertising.)

      Reply
      • jz78817

        “This is just another example of why the public has lost all trust in the “institution” that is the media”

        I don’t think we (as a whole) have done that at all. we just gravitate towards whatever media outlet is telling us we already know the truth, and then scream at each other from there.

        suspects collusion between manufacturers of vehicles and anyone who reviews such vehicles despite claiming to be objective

        I’m not certain the average car buyer even knows or cares about any of that. They just go buy the car which “feels right” to them, whether it’s their seventh Civic in a row, or that new Jeep Cherokee which they just “OMG gotta have!”

        Reply
        • DeadWeight

          Wow.

          That’s really pathetic & extremely slimy especially given his extremely tepid attempt at disclosure of the nature and extent of his relationship with VW (essentially a failure to disclose said nature & extent).

          Reply
  4. PaulyG

    What amazes me is not that people will prostitute themselves but they will do it for such small amounts of money. His reputation was only worth $9,000? Just goes to show how poorly he priced risk.

    We had a saying on the junk bond desk back in the day: “There is no such thing as a secret, only time.” Most people never figure that out.

    Reply
  5. lzaffuto

    It’s pretty dumb too, in the sense that full disclosure might make some readers read the article with a more critical eye, but wouldn’t necessarily invalidate the points of the author. Finding out about lack of disclosure after the fact makes it look more phony than full disclosure would.

    Reply
  6. -Nate-Nate

    Score one for the good guys .

    I’m seriously under the gun at work because I had the temerity to point out some people’s inexplicable failure to do their jobs and causing a serious negative cascade effect .

    I’m still not sure if they’re lazy or simply incompetent and just scared to ask for a little help .

    So far everyone in management has agreed with me 100 % but has decided to shoot the messenger rather than make any effort to correct things .

    Too bad about gerdes but he chose to be dishonest , no one forced him so he should own it .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • Jim

      I had that same thing happen in my last job of working for someone else. It was the wake-up call that I needed to realize that I was wasting my time making someone else rich and further realized it was not particularly difficult to generate more income (and enjoyment in what I was doing) on my own. I only wish I had realized it sooner.

      Reply
      • -Nate-Nate

        That’s just it ~ I used to love my job and always got serious satisfaction from doing it well and having happy Customers , I had never planned to retire and used to ask the grey hairs why they were so bitter and un happy , none of us would ever be rich but it was steady work we chose to do etc. , inevitably they all said ‘ just wait , you’ll see ‘ and now I do .

        It’s a sad thing indeed .

        -Nate

        Reply
  7. jz78817

    “For a few years now, there have been a couple of “secret” Facebook groups where the various morons and press-event laydowns and PR fluffers can congratulate each other for eating caviar on first-class flights and taking Bentley Mulsannes to their high-school reunions.”

    yeah, in past jobs I’ve been involved in various media/press events, usually as a product demonstrator. It was always immediately clear which of the journalists were actually car guys, and who was just there to stuff his face and pad his ego. a few jobs ago the company I worked for would have a booth at the Detroit auto show, and the booth had bar service and served food for lunch and dinner (primarily intended for invited VIPs from our customers.) they had negotiated the ability to bring in a particular food item and on the press days, I’d see the same fucking “journalists” come in over and over again at lunch and dinner and sit in there for an hour and a half ramming food down their gullets. and of course making good use of the open bar. Didn’t give one shit about what my company was showing, just walk in, eat/drink, leave.

    then there was the one some years ago where we were in our prep meeting, and the coordinators were going over the guest list with everyone. they got to one guy’s name and said, “I don’t know how he ended up getting invited, but to any women presenting tomorrow- and anyone who happens to be nearby- please keep an eye on where this guy points his camera.”

    Reply
  8. ComfortablyNumb

    I’m reminded of the late Daffy Duck, who, after blowing himself up to the cheers of the audience and receiving highest praise from Bugs Bunny, said, “I know, but I can only do it once.”

    Mark had to burn himself to get this story out there. I appreciate it, and sincerely hope he isn’t shunned by other outlets for it. Although it seems that in your business, having integrity and being shunned kind of go together.

    Reply
  9. Tom KlockauTom Klockau

    I was somehow added to that Auto Industry group, (funny, since I do accounting for a four-restaurant chain in the Midwest, maybe it was due to my being involved with The Brougham Society) and read the whole line of comments. A lot of anger at the attempt to derail the gravy train was my initial impression. My take? If an automaker pays you to take part in some publicity stunt, just mention it. It’s not rocket science.

    Reply

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