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Enemy lines

2 years ago

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Peter Robinson | Journalist


29 July 2022

‘Journalists are the enemy…do not talk to motoring writers.’ 

The instruction, from the communications department of a famous German car maker, was delivered verbally to its astonished designers. And almost immediately passed on to the ‘enemy’.

At new model time and (the now vanishing) motor shows, car makers are happy for us hacks to create heroes of their best and brightest design talents. But away from the carefully structured confines of a launch, where the communications/PR operatives are largely able to control events – who talks to whom and when – the last thing any car company encourages is casual contact between their key design, engineering and product planning staff and the apparently reviled muttering rotters. Even, occasionally, senior management.

On drive programmes and launches the corporate spin doctors – handsomely paid to extract the best possible exposure for the products they peddle, the company and its executives – ensure only the favoured A-team scribblers sit next to the most senior executives during dinner, often with a minder to ‘interpret’ any indiscreet remarks.

Unchaperoned meetings are often verboten. Any known troublemakers (and there are always a few), hunting down a hot news story or rumour, almost inevitably find a comms-operative hovering nearby as they close in on their prey. One constant and clear objective is to prevent, or at least severely limit, any extra contact that could lead to friendship.

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