Editorial reply from the publisher of HybridDriver.com:
(Link to watch CBS Hybrid report )
Rather pic        No technology can compensate for irresponsible driving.  Consumer reports' auto guru, David Champion, knows that, but he still screeched around curves at or near tip-over speed to prove that the '04 Toyota Prius is just another car, nothing special and not worthy of the hype.  No mention of near zero emissions, no mention of the seven month plus waiting period to get your hands on one and no mention of the simple fact that the most important part of any car is the nut behind the wheel.

        Reporter Anthony Mason said that buyers (plural) are complaining.  Well, one person at least.  We know there must be more, but to Anthony Mason, Pete Blackshaw of Cincinnati was the poster boy for the disenchanted.  A one-person focus group whose 20 seconds on camera out of a 2:08 story told the story.  He was gypped, taken to the cleaners, hung out to dry by Honda.  Pete only got 32 miles per gallon. The EPA sticker said he should get 47, and Mrs. Blackshaw, whose face and voice we never see or hear, is ticked.  She taped a homemade documentary of the whole, bloody trip from ecstasy in the showroom, to the agony of buyer's remorse.  Why did she tape the saga?  Blackshaw never really had the chance to tell us.  Doesn't everyone videotape their new car purchases these days?  But this isn't about Pete and his wife, whose lifestyle we know nothing about, whose education levels we know nothing about, whose previous taste in cars we know nothing about. For all we know, Pete's Civic might have a license plate frame that says "MY OTHER CAR IS A HUMMER."  Just kidding, Pete, although with a Hummer the only promise would be that you could squish a Civic and not even notice the bump.  All we do know is that Pete and the Mrs. own a video camera and feel they were hoodwinked by a car dealer and a car company.  What a concept.  Would the story have been any different if we had heard 30 seconds of Pete's interview...a minute...5 minutes?  The actual voice of Mrs. Blackshaw?  We'll never know.

       Back to Mr. Champion and his championship-level, pedal-to-the-metal right foot.  If there were going to be full disclosure in the report, Champion or Mason should have mentioned that ALL CARMAKERS add the caveat that "your mileage may vary and that your driving habits and road and traffic conditions may affect fuel consumption."  Those aren't the exact words, but heck; this is modern journalism, so just like horseshoes, almost counts.  But if you drive like a Champion...like the driver on the "...closed course” in virtually any TV car commercial...like a bat out of he**, you're going to get relatively crappy mileage.  That's the price you pay for the heart pumping, adrenaline flushing, testosterone fed, riveting, Matterhorn-on-crack experience most Americans seem to want from their cars these days.  But, most hybrid drivers are different.  Let me be their poster boy this time.  We tend to watch the fuel consumption graphics, use a feather touch on the gas peddle and brag about squeezing an additional half mile per gallon out of our technological wonders.  Wonders?  Our cars are so complex, it may be a wonder they work at all.  But they do.  Most of us are pioneers who know the fuel savings will probably never offset the premium we paid to be the first kids on our block...

       So, Pete.  With all due respect, you are entitled to your opinion.  And thanks to CBS, you still have 14 minutes and 40 seconds of fame coming.  If you don't like your Hybrid, put it on Ebay.  You'll probably get all of your money back.  Unless you let David Champion drive your car.  If so, the excessive wear and tear will probably cost you a few bucks.

       As for Anthony Mason...he closed his report as follows: "Anthony Mason, CBS News, East Haddam, Connecticut."  Connecticut???  And Pete Blackshaw is in Cincinnati?  Could it be that Tony and Pete have never met?  Has Tony ever even driven a hybrid?  Does any of this bother legendary journalist Dan Rather?  What this story didn't tell us could fill a book...or at least another two minutes.

Now, food for thought. Could it be that someone from the CBS sales department took the short ride over to the news studios to have a meeting that went something like this:

Hi Bernie, how’s it goin'.

Busy day Hal. What can I do for you?

Well, there is something. You know SUV commercials account for about a third (Ed: guess) of our news commercial revenue. And the big, heavy, expensive freeway bombers are taking quite a hit in the news these days. Meanwhile these little hybrid doodlebugs are coming across like the last hope for the future of humanity. But nobody buys airtime for those things because they seem to sell themselves. We're in for some dark times if we can't bring this thing into proper perspective. Anything you can do, Bernie.

I think so. We’ve got a producer in the mid-West that got a call from a guy who says the mileage promises for the hybrids are bogus. He bought one and he and his wife are really unhappy. Now, get this. The wife taped the whole transaction when they bought the car. I'm told it's lousy quality, like undercover spy footage. I don't know if that's what it is. But if we squeeze it down, it will look OK. I think the car guy at consumer reports will go along for credibility. After all, it is true that the actual gas mileage is lower than the EPA figures. We'll send Mason out to work the Consumer Reports angle, have the crew from Cleveland or Detroit go down to Cinci and do the interview. Mason can do a standup at some Toyota dealership, maybe near his home in Connecticut. We won't show the dealer's name, of course. And, presto! I've got a good story on the Rather news, and you don't have quite as big a problem. I don't think we've crossed any ethical lines. Besides, we all like to eat.

(Think about it, Dan.)


(Bob Lawrence is co-founder and publisher of www.HybridDriver.com and owns a 2001 Prius.  He spent 20 years in broadcasting, sixteen of them reporting and anchoring TV news.  While anchoring news for an Ohio TV station he was sent to New York to tape promos with Dan Rather (see photo above).  He and his two colleagues were then invited into Dan's small, private office for an hour of conversation.  Dan was warm and friendly, and spent the entire time asking questions about what the viewers back in Toledo thought of him.  They told him the folks back home liked him just fine.  They really didn't know.  But how could you say that to a living legend?)