Where have all the new cars gone?
Back in the "good old days" the press fleets were overflowing with cars, even for a writer like myself who wrote a monthly column for a weekly small town paper. The car companies were flush with money and they didn't seem to care if every car they loaned you got a write up or how many miles you put on a car.
Then the economy tanked, the Big Three almost went under, and belts were tightened. The press fleets shrank, media events were either scaled back or disappeared completely. And if you want to take a trip from Norcal to Socal you needed permission to put that many miles on a press car.
For the most part auto writers understood that times were tough so we quietly took whatever we could. I know I did. But that was a few years ago.
Car sales came back and so has profitability (at least until recently). But the press fleets haven't recovered. If anything they have gotten thinner and what is there is doled out very sparingly.
I'm not going to name names; that would be counter-productive. One company that used to be very generous with press cars now wants to know what you would like to drive (instead of just having a large fleet to choose from). Fair enough. Another company wants to see an article almost before the test period is over. All of them do not want you to put on hundreds of miles in a week (the normal test period).
I'm not choosy about what I drive but I do want to report on the newest cars possible. I think every reviewer feels the same. This year it has been difficult getting 2019 cars. Sometimes it is understandable; Mazda didn't introduce some '19s until auto show season. Other times it is just baffling. I will see new models being driven on the street but they are not available, or a car company will be advertising the heck out of a new model but it isn't in the press fleet.
Then there are performance cars. They sure are fun to test but really they are not my staple, or the staple of many except the buff books. I write for people who commute long distances daily, take their kids to soccer games, take the family to Disneyland, etc. Sure there's a little Walter Mitty in all of us but with limited outlets I have to give the people what I (and my editor) think they want.
Now this may seem like a big gripe piece but it isn't. I love to drive new cars, the more the merrier. If I had 52 new cars a year I'd be in heaven. But I have a car of my own that runs just fine and my ego isn't so big that if I'm not in a new car it bothers me. Sometimes I think it bothers others more than me - I'm always getting asked "What are you driving this week?" When I say "My car" their smile fades. That's their problem not mine.
I've got some cars lined up. Surprisingly not all of them are '19s but if I end up with enough '19s for the Tracy Press that is really all I need.