Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tests in Car Magazines are not neutral

A lot of people consult Car Magazines to find out what car to consider to buy, me included. Car Magazines employ well educated people with lots of experience and therefore are able to measure the performance of cars and the car’s characteristics. But why can it be that more often than not French cars win and are celebrated in French magazines, while a German car may be the winner in a German journal? Is there a lack of Neutrality?
Well, I strongly believe that these journalists have a very professional attitude and they try to stay as fair as possible. What may make the difference is, that not all criteria are the same for Germany versus France for example. Why would a French motor journalist care about the top speed of a car really? Let’s take an example: the Toyota Prius. If you apply German criteria you may want to be able to go fast on a highway and also drive very quickly on normal streets. Distances are big between cities, so you really care a bit less about city fuel consumption. People are rather tall and you need lots of space for all the stuff a family wants to take for vacation. The Prius will not score well here. In Japan it’s very different. Lots of city traffic, impossible to drive faster than 100 km/h, smaller people and probably no need to take the car when you do vacation trips. So the test result will be quite different in these two cases. Another good illustration is what TopGear did when comparing the Toyota Prius and the BMW M3 on the race track: the Prius going full speed followed by a relaxed M3 resulted in more fuel consumption with the Hybrid than with the tuned six cylinder engine of the BMW. Actually as a reader you may not even care about neutrality as long as the criteria applied fit to your own needs. And yes, there’s some national pride involved too and probably some sponsoring and advertisement money as well. So it’s good that the readers have their own opinions also and often read a number of different journals anyway.

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