Motor Trend wanted you to believe that they exclusively uncovered Apple’s mysterious car. They did not. Instead, what they have is an in-house render, a long and boring video, and a bad, desperate publicity stunt.
Yesterday, Motor Trend built up hype on social media for what seemed to be a reveal of the highly-anticipated, extremely secretive Apple Car.
Today they released their story. It turns out the magazine merely gathered several designers and tech people and had them create renders of a possible Apple Car. It’s a bronze-and-black, autonomous-capable pod-looking thing.
The magazine offers a speculative look at what an Apple Car could look and feel like, inside and out. Emphasis on speculative: these are merely heavy-breathing teasers, and after their misleading social media campaign, it turns out they didn’t know any more than anyone else.
You can see more of their car if you watch a 29-minute video where the cars’ narcoleptic and deeply unenthusiastic designers and a despondent-looking MT Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh have a roundtable discussion about the project. If you have time for that. You may want to spend your time watching something more exciting, like a meeting of your local Planning and Zoning Commission.
It’s understandable the magazine would want to get out in front on the Apple Car. It will undoubtedly be the biggest story in the car world this year, bigger than even the Tesla Model 3. And so far, Apple’s “Project Titan” has been one of the most mysterious; it’s shrouded in more secrecy than a new stealth jet. No one knows what the Apple Car will look like, or even whether it will be a car you can own in the traditional sense, or whether it’s just destined for ride-sharing services or to be a technological test bed for other, more established carmakers.
In other words, Motor Trend uncovering the Apple Car would be a huge deal. That’s not what they did, however, although it was certainly couched that way on Twitter in the day leading up to its big “reveal.”
The wording of these tweets was seemingly chosen carefully, but the implication was that somehow, unfathomably, Motor Trend—not WIRED, not Apple Insider, not Gizmodo or Jalopnik, not 9 to 5 Mac or any other publication willing to do actual digging and risk getting blacklisted to oblivion by Apple—would be the publication to leak the Apple Car.
This is, of course, patently absurd. MT has all but officially rebranded itself as sponsored content and entertainment as opposed to any sort of believable journalistic endeavor. And that’s fine. Even some of their worst brand-shilling is at least somewhat entertaining, even if they’re not the type of publication to print anything an automaker (or advertiser) doesn’t want printed.
This, however, is somehow both boring and just makes the reader feel worse. This is more desperate than their spammy attempts to get everyone on Facebook to subscribe to MotorTrend on Demand.
There are two factors at work here. There’s creating speculative renders of upcoming products, which many magazines do (and our own Jason Torchinsky did last year with the Apple Car.) Then there’s packaging that render as something that might be real, which is misleading and sad.
When Car and Driver created the rather convincing-looking mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette, they didn’t hold the world’s saddest McLaughlin Group roundup to show off a render of that car while spending a day on Twitter trying to tease you with the possibility they aren’t fucking liars.
Sadly, the Motor Trend designers’ approach to an Apple Car isn’t particularly insightful. It’s an egg on wheels! With autonomous driving technology! And lots of screens! And Apple logos! And it’s built for ride-sharing! It uses the word “mobility!”
In short, Motor Trend’s team hasn’t said anything about the Apple Car or other future-thinking autonomous cars that anyone else hasn’t already said. It’s quite a bit like the Mercedes F015 concept from last year, and countless other designs.
Even if the final design is bad and unoriginal—and it is thoroughly both of those things—no sin is greater than misleading readers and the public into thinking they had the actual car. What could have been an interesting project is tanked by a desperate attempt for attention and relevance.
The fake, bad Apple Car stars on the cover of Motor Trend’s June issue.