Do car companies bribe journalists, and if so, how exactly do they do this? In a video by Sam Alexander shared on YouTube titled “How Car Companies Bribe Journalists,” Sam addressed the legal ways that car companies such as Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, and others are able to bribe journalists for positive coverage. Sam noted that the only automaker that doesn’t play this game is Tesla and he shared how this impacts the reporting on Tesla in general.
Sam opened his video about Tesla’s quality control and asked if this was a legitimate problem or one that automotive journalists are just amplifying, since it’s not a fair, apples-to-apples comparison.
“It actually might be that those journalists aren’t actually comparing apples to apples. Bribery and corruption in the media seem to be just facts of life at this point in history. And while many acknowledge that fact when it comes to politics, lots of people seem to believe it doesn’t stray out of the political world.”
Sam explained that he often gets asked about why he calls out so many media outlets for their clear and present biases against Tesla as well as EVs. He explained that the purpose of this particular video should help answer that question.
Many of Tesla’s critics find me on Twitter, through my personal jewelry website, or on other social sites such as Instagram and often accuse me of spreading Tesla propaganda. I own one share of Tesla (had to sell the other one), yet even Benzinga made it seem as if I’m making substantial profits in its article about Elon Musk’s response to one of my CleanTechnica articles.
“’While that’s not, in my opinion, a crime, it should be noted that VW is a competitor to Tesla and Germany is VW’s territory. That aside, the bigger issue is coal,’ Johnna Crider, who has personal investments in Tesla, wrote for CleanTechnica.”
I think it’s unfair how many in the media have treated Tesla supporters, customers, and even other writers like myself who cover Tesla fairly. And some of the nuttier critics have even sent me horrid messages on my personal website — all because they really hate Tesla. You would think I was supporting an unpopular political candidate or something instead of advocating for electric vehicles and sustainability.
However trivial it may seem, Sam pointed out that the automotive industry gives the clearest view that he’s found about the power dynamic between massive corporations, government, lobbying, the media, and ultimately how to manipulate the consumer.
“You can think of it as a case study of sorts. A case study of how power corrupts, and the pursuit of profit maximization at all costs cannot be a company’s end goal. Just like in life, there must be something more important than just money at the heart of the business or they’ll eventually get lost in that pursuit.”
Tesla’s end game, unlike many of the automotive manufacturers, isn’t profit maximization at all costs. Tesla has been very vocal about its mission of accelerating the transition to sustainability. In August 2021, while he was at Giga Berlin, Elon Musk gave an inspiring message. He said,
“Do you want to wake up every morning everything is just a problem? But what inspires you? What makes you excited about the future? There’s got to be some things like that.”
In his video, Sam touched upon the relationship between media outlets, and more specifically for this video, auto journalists and their relationship with automotive manufacturers.
“Automotive journalists are being paid without technically being paid in order to write a more positive review of the cars. They’re regularly flown to fancy destinations and put up in five-star hotels and given expensive meals all paid for by the car companies so that they can review a new car.”
When I went to the two Tesla events (Plaid and AI Day), I had to borrow money from friends to pay for the flights. I was also lucky to have friends from the Tesla community in the area to help me with places to stay and getting to and from the events. It was the Tesla community who helped me from the kindness of their hearts. I should also say that the Tesla community also helped my area during Hurricane Ida. I bring this up because transparency is important. However, to repeat: Tesla hasn’t covered my flights, hotel stays, or anything else.
Elon Musk has been kind to me in the past. He donated to charities in my state during Hurricane Laura. He’s also donated to other causes that are near and dear to him as well. But I don’t think this counts toward paying me to write nice things.
I think Sam’s video is very informative and it’s a must-watch for everyone — especially those of us writing about cars. Personally, I’ll take it as constructive feedback with the aim of improving my own writing and striving for fairness. I admit I can be a little brutal in my honesty (especially when I’m either passionate about something or really angry). However, I’m human, too.