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.