The Economist Accidentally Plagiarizes From Parody Car Website

The internet. It's tricky. One thing you learn at the beginning is to vet your sources. Make sure they're reliable. That's something that The Economist, a super legitimate publication apparently hasn't learned yet. They just took words from a parody site as fact and published them. Whoooops.

Diesel has been all the craze lately, especially with Mazda's announcement that the Mazda6 will come with a diesel engine here in the states. And by "craze," I mean a niche group of auto enthusiasts and journalists are very excited.

Autoblopnik, one of our favorite parody sites, recently took advantage of our diesel love by pointing out an all-new Mazda diesel that will never exist:

The new Skymaster-Z engine uses an 8.5:1 compression ratio, so low that it requires an auxiliary electrical spark system in order to maintain combustion, and requires fuel that is more volatile than standard low-sulfer diesel. Mazda engineers have calibrated the engine to run on ordinary 87-octane gasoline, but this requires retimed single-pulse injectors and a more complicated intake system that premixes the fuel and air in a relatively constant ratio, as opposed to the variable mixture and power-cycle injection used by traditional diesels.

According to Mazda Chief Engineer Ashiro Nakahonda, the Skymister-T engine’s low compression ratio eliminates the need for a turbocharger and allows use of lighter components that can spin faster, raising the redline to 7,000 RPM. The new engine also produces significantly less noise and vibration than a typical diesel and has a markedly different emissions footprint, allowing it to meet 50-state standards with a standard catalytic converter and without the use of an AdBlue-type additive. The trade off is a 75% reduction in torque and higher fuel consumption. The prototype two-liter engine reportedly develops around 140 horsepower but only 135 lb-ft of torque, returning the equivalent of approximately 30 MPG in the EPA city cycle and 40 MPG in the highway cycle when mounted in a C-segment-size car. “While these numbers are not typical of an ordinary turbodiesel engine,” Nakahonda says, “we believe they will be adequate for the American market.”

Hilarious if you're in the know. The Economist wasn't in the know:

Meanwhile, Mazda has an ultra-diesel under wraps which uses an unprecedented 8.5-to-1 compression ratio. Another of its diesels has internal parts so light that the engine will spin up to 7,000 revolutions per minute without a turbo-charger, and can meet America’s 50-state emissions standard with no more than a conventional catalytic converter.

They did this without citing the source, which is something key that I learned in high school. When you put something like this in The Economist, a publication with a lot of weight behind it, it comes across as fact. It simply isn't true at all. A writer not on the car scene might take Autoblopnik as fact because we believe it is written by someone in the industry.

But here's a top tip: If you only see a bit of info one place and you've never heard of that place before, check around a bit, see if it's true.

This one isn't true and, had the writer linked to a source, they could be forgiven for being confused. Everyone makes mistakes and when you cite some information you give the reader a chance to decide what's legit and what isn't. They can help you vet your sources.

I never thought I'd say this, but I think The Economist might need to vet their sources a little better.

(Hat tip to Michael Karesh!)