I was actually very impressed with the way Fiat Chrysler presented their five-year plan yesterday. It was informative, transparent and effective at showing the world what they have in store. And I'm saying that even without one of the free tablets they gave to reporters as a gift!
Automotive News' Nick Bunkley, who was at Fiat Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, said via Twitter that the automaker set aside tablets for journalists to use during the presentation. And then they let them keep them afterward.
As Bunkley himself said sardonically, "Ethics, schmethics," right?
It's not clear to me what kind of tablet that is or how much it costs, but it's clearly not an iPad or anything. Any guesses? It came with a tablet cover, notebook, pen, flash drive, power cord and portable power pack, so whatever it was, it wasn't cheap altogether. (Update: Bunkley says it was Samsung Galaxy.)
The good news is that Chrysler gave journalists the option of donating their tablets to United Way for Southeastern Michigan if accepting this gift didn't jibe with their company's ethics and gifts policies. (Not to humblebrag or anything, but that includes the website you are currently reading.)
Bunkley, who's an excellent reporter from a respected publication, decided his tablet would be better in the hands of Detroit school kids than sitting in his living room. He left it on the table at the end.
To all aspiring auto journalists out there: The most crucial skill you'll need to do this job is the ability to collect free swag from car companies. That includes free trips, shrimp, booze, and of course, gifts you can't possibly afford yourself.
I did a Lexus drive once where they were giving away luggage — and it was nice luggage — and plenty of writers seized the opportunity to snatch it up. I didn't because Jalopnik has policies against that sort of thing.
Did Fiat Chrysler think what they might be implying here? "Keep the tablet, and don't let it sway you into giving us positive coverage, but... have you seen how fast and responsive this tablet is?" Nobody looks good in this scenario, guys. You shouldn't keep expensive gifts from businesses you cover as a reporter, and those businesses shouldn't be handing them out in the first place.
Automakers have a way of treating reporters more like providers of free advertising, and too many reporters are willing to go along with it. This industry as a whole needs to do better when it comes to this stuff, but I doubt it will anytime soon.
If you saw a reporter take one of these feel free to drop their name in the comments below.