Misha Ketchell writes:

Journalism might be one of the world’s least trusted professions but
the ignominy does have its compensations. Just how good they are
depends largely on the area in which you work – travel editors get good
junkets, technology writers have plenty of gadgets; arts writers rarely
have to pay to see a show.

But journalism is a jealous profession, and the gig everyone has always
eyed-off with the deepest suspicion is that of the motoring writer. How is
it that the motoring hacks always seem to have some shiny new and
highly desirable vehicle in the staff car park, despite a salary that
would struggle to pay for a flash push-bike? They can’t all be “test cars” can they?

Well, now we know. The Age and the SMH today reported on a
recent vehicle launch at which Hyundai’s Australian boss offered the
assembled journos half-price cars. The offer, which was made while the
journos were being plied with “depth charges” (a mix of beer and
whiskey) was quickly withdrawn after the broadsheets blew the whistle
(perhaps because their more stringent freebies policies would’ve made
it impossible for their staff to take part).

As one motoring hack points out there there are also plenty of
over-the-top lunches and other freebies to trick journos out of doing
their job, but despite the freebies
Aussie motoring writers are known for going pretty hard on a car that’s
not up to scratch.

But Crikey’s sources also say there’s still the odd dodgy
inducement here and there. For example at the Hyundai Sonata launch the journos weren’t just offered cut-price cars –
they were also given an MP3 player worth up to $400 just for turning
up.

Crikey has also been told that the companies use what are
known as “partner launches” to get publicity for a car that’s not
attracting much attention. There are usually a
couple of trips a year and they involve fully-funded trips for
journos
and their partners. Saab once sent journos and their
partners to Noosa to talk about a car that has less power and less
equipment and Audi did a black tie dinner in Sydney which included
flying partners there for the night.

Toyota and its
luxury brand Lexus is also well known for going over the top attending to
amazing details on launches, and a few years ago there were strong rumours that Toyota
had put enough acid on ACP to ensure the then-new Camry would
run on the cover of Wheels magazine. Fairfax
did a story on it and ACP offered a veiled threat of legal action, which
was never followed through.

We’re wondering what other over-the-top inducements have been offered to
motoring journos over the years. The “loan” of a car for a long period
of time seems an obvious example. What would the longest period on a
flash loan car have been? Email suggestions to [email protected]