Editor’s Note: In this week’s Rant, Peter’s alternate persona as The Excitable Boy resurfaces. In On The Table, Acura Answers the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking, Lexus gets its Electric on, and the Dodge Last Call by Roadkill Nights Vegas event is upon us, or as we refer to it – “The Last Gasp For Everything” event. And our AE Song of the Week celebrates Stacey’s Mom. In Fumes, Peter continues with Part VIII of his popular new series “The Great Races” – featuring the 1965 12 Hours of Sebring, known for “The Deluge” which dumped five inches of rain on the circuit in just 30 minutes! And finally, we offer up the latest motorsports news in The Line. Enjoy. -WG
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. “From Day One, the real essence of Autoextremist.com was the fact that I said what others were merely thinking or would only discuss in ‘deep background’ and in ‘off-the-record’ conversations. It was never a touchy-feely publication that coddled its readers and genuflected at the feet of the car companies. There’s plenty of pabulum in this world. And if becoming a lifetime member of the ‘Milquetoast & Crumpets Afternoon Tea & Automobile Society,’ while sitting around the fire chatting about Renault Dauphines floats your boat, there are plenty of other automobile publications out there to satisfy your primordial need for blandness. But that’s not Autoextremist. Born out of a defiance and frustration with the status quo that I believed was stifling creativity and squeezing the very life out of the automobile business – particularly as practiced here in the Motor City – and then fueled by my passion and vision for how great the business could become again and what was necessary in order for it to get there, Autoextremist.com was not only a labor of love for me personally – it became an influential force to be reckoned with in this industry with an impact far beyond my most vivid imagination.”
That passage is from the introduction to my book, The United States of Toyota.
Creating content for this website can be exhilarating, debilitating, depressing and yes, even flat-out fun at times. Or all of the above, all on the same day. I learned early on that the reality of doing this website means that, if I write something people agree with, I’m a hero. If I write something that people disagree with, I’m an asshole. Such is life when you’re a national commentator who is expected to offer up a new column every week. 
Not that I’m complaining – actually, far from it. People who knew me before AE know that I’m exactly the way I was way back when. Someone who was gifted a living, breathing history of this business, and who was willing to offer commentary and perspectives that others would either shy away from or wouldn’t think of verbalizing out loud. And someone who never ever suffered fools, gladly or otherwise. 
I still get excited about the best things that define this business: The creativity by all of the talented men and women involved in the actual designing of vehicles inside and out. It’s a true art form, and there is nothing, and I mean, nothing more breathtaking than taking a walk through a design studio and experiencing the brilliant work on display. It gives you a feeling of hope for The Future that’s difficult to put into words, even for me.
And then there’s the feeling from a vehicle that has been developed, nurtured and polished to a high degree in every facet of the game. Superb steering, confident braking, remarkable cornering, and, of course, responsive engine and transmission performance. Wheeling a remarkable machine bristling with those qualities never gets old – in fact, if you haven’t experienced it in a while you owe it to yourself to get behind the wheel and have at it. It’s reaffirming. And if it isn’t, maybe it’s time to engage in a different pursuit.
Yes, I still find the business exciting, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that some parts of this business piss me off more than ever.
Serial incompetence is still rampant in this business. Classic mistakes are not only still being made, they’re being repeated by executives and organizations that should know better. It’s a weird Auto Twilight Zone where what came before never happened and where every day is a new day. Sometimes it seems that there has been no accrued knowledge of any sort, and we’re being forced to witness a slow-rolling train wreck that could have easily been avoided. It makes me want to climb to the highest mountaintop and invoke those famous words from Vince Lombardi, screaming, “What the Hell is Going on Out There!!” at the top of my lungs.
Yes, I get excited on both sides of the ball, but this inexorable automotive march continues. To where, no one really knows for sure. The EV thing is definitely coming, and it will still be coming fifteen years from now. Make no mistake, the developments in battery technology, weight reduction and charging speed are unfolding at a furious pace, and the seemingly insurmountable problems of today will give way to radical solutions in ten years. But that means that the ICE Reality will continue unabated for a long time to come, and as I’ve stated repeatedly, that is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned 
In the meantime, the show pony EVs – the six-figure-plus vehicles of all stripes – will continue to dominate the headlines, but the inexorable tipping point will be when the more affordable mainstream EVs arrive. Even so, until the public charging infrastructure is dramatically improved – and steps are taken to anticipate and improve the supply of electricity – the EV “thing” is going to play out in fits and starts. As I’ve said many times before, when you can pull off the highway and get an 80 percent charge in five minutes or less, you will know that the EV “moment” has arrived. And this just in: that isn’t anytime soon, folks.
Some have suggested to me that the High-Octane Truth will not survive that “moment.” But rest assured, that will not be the case. This business remains a kaleidoscope of vision, projection and yes, even the day-to-day mundane. That has been the reality of this business since its inception. And that will not change anytime soon.
And where does that leave AE?
Let me take a step back and remind people what this publication is all about. I daresay AE is good for the mind, it clears the air and it provides a moment of clarity for the lost souls wandering around in the automotive wilderness, the ones who can’t seem to separate the real from the imagined, or the pipe dreams from what’s truly important. I find that most of the confusion lies with the unfortunates who have managed to create their own very special fantasies about their place in this motorized circus. Because some of you out there seem to get confused, or some of you let your self-appointed “insider” view – which is loosely based on a remarkable propensity for self-delusion when it comes to your place in the automotive world – get in the way. Which is inherently sad, because learning to live in world of disappointment must be a particularly tedious cross to bear, but I digress. When we first contemplated doing Autoextremist, I wrote a manifesto for what it was and what it was not.First things first, and this is something that too many still find out the hard way – I’m talking to you, Elon – that designing, engineering and building automobiles is one of the most complicated endeavors on earth. And to do it properly takes vision, creativity and an unwavering passion that makes other pursuits seem positively ordinary. Note that there is nothing in there about doing it just good enough to get by, engineering to the lowest common denominator, covering your ass or any of the other pillars of “standard operating procedure” that once dominated certain quarters of this business and have been, for the most part, purged. Except that isn’t really true, unfortunately. All the bad old habits are still present and accounted for and then some, and as much as reasoned, logical and eminently bright executives in charge at these auto companies protest otherwise and insist that “we don’t do that stuff anymore,” that kind of bad behavior is just one wrong product or marketing decision away from rearing its ugly head, and usually at the most inopportune time too.
That’s what we do here in this publication, in case you haven’t noticed. We expose the go-along-to-get-alongs, and the kick-the-can-down-the-road hordes on a regular basis, because the damage they cause can bring these companies to their knees in a heartbeat. This is a key point in the Autoextremist Manifesto, because it resonates throughout this business: Mediocrity – in any way, shape or form – isn’t bliss. Instead, it’s an insidious disease that has not only decimated this industry, it has screwed up life as we used to know it too.
At some point this business – and American life – turned down the wrong path. Pushing the envelope, getting knocked down and picking yourself back up and going at it again, battling to the buzzer, and striving for achievement were part and parcel of the upward trajectory of the automobile business – and country – we used to live in. Achieving greatness wasn’t just a goal, it was an expectation to shoot for, because anything less would be, well, ordinary. And even worse, boring.
In the old days, this business often gave way to an unspoken attitude of just doing enough to get by because when it came right down to it, judging by the chorus of muttering I used to hear, doing more begged the question, “Does it really make all that much difference?” Back then, fundamental accountability was replaced by “It’s not my problem.” And “It’s okay, at least you tried” not only became more than just an acceptable phrase, but a mantra that too many people lived by. After all, when everyone got a group hug and a trophy just for showing up, why bother extending effort to do better, or achieve greatness, or strive to be the best?
Why bother, indeed.
The result? Abject mediocrity became a virulent disease in this business (and rampant throughout the country too). I recall some people saying to me (and with a straight face), “Get over it, it’s the world we live in today.” But I didn’t buy it then because it was simply unacceptable to me. And I’m not buying it now either, which is why I will continue to call people and companies out on it whenever and wherever I see it. It’s not a value-added path for this business, and it’s already proven not to be the answer for the country, either.
The stellar machines of our day – and we are living in the golden age of automotive greatness in case you haven’t noticed – aren’t the product of “it’s good enough.” Instead, these machines bristle with the passion, vision and commitment of the men and women who created them, those “True Believers” that I often write about. If it weren’t for them, this business would be riding on the Last Train to Nowhere, next stop, Oblivion.
Railing against mediocrity and mediocrity “creep” is an essential component of Autoextremist.com. And it’s not confined to the designing, engineering and building of automobiles, unfortunately. The marketers at these car companies can be wildly suspect as well, too often taking the easy way out when the situation is just aching for a bold move. That they often end up taking the road frequently traveled rather than risk ruffling some feathers, even though their gut tells them the results will be well worth it, is a sad commentary. Because repackaged tedium stinks; it always has and it always will. Are there exceptions and exceptional people involved in the marketing functions at these companies and their advertising agencies? Yes, absolutely. And thank goodness. The creative cream still rises to the top, and when it emerges in a bit of magic it is something to savor.
And let’s not forget the media, because mediocrity is prevalent there too. In fact, I maintain a reservoir of intense loathing for certain journalists on the auto beat who blithely sleepwalk through their coverage, performing rote regurgitations spoonfed from the company PR staffs and calling it news (or even worse, writing) because after all, it’s a lot easier than having their oftentimes clueless editors field a phone call from an irate PR minion who is upset about a story. Ever wonder why there’s sameness to the coverage of the auto business? That you can plug and play stories from one publication to another and not see any difference? There’s a reason for it. It’s a lot easier to cover the auto companies the way they want you to, because going against the grain is difficult, and bad things happen to those who don’t toe the line.
Thankfully, there’s no danger of that happening here. Going against the grain is our specialty. It’s what we do best and why you keep coming back. You won’t find restrictor plates, aero matching or “spec” anything around here. I don’t say what people want me to say. In fact, as much as the mediocrity-brandishing hordes (oh, you know who you are, the recalcitrant twerps, the self-important hacks clinging to their little piece of the pie – and their dubious titles – by their fingernails, hoping to get out before being exposed for the worthless parasites they truly are, and of course the spineless weasels who continue to wreak their particular brand of righteous intransigence and havoc to the detriment of companies everywhere. Yeah, you) who are so protective of their pathetic little fiefdoms want me to sit down and be quiet – for good – the likelihood of that happening is slim. And none.
As a matter of fact, I’ve got really bad news for those who so wish I would just go away: I am still The Excitable Boy. 

And the kind of unflinching commentary that we specialize in is like a tonic for the soul in this swirling maelstrom of shit masquerading as the world we live in today. As for the rest of you?It’s quite simple: You can’t handle the High-Octane Truth.
Editor’s Note: You can access previous issues of AE by clicking on “Next 1 Entries” below. – WG

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