Press-car abuse is a part of the automotive journalism industry. So, too, is damage caused by normally diligent journalists who made a mistake/had some bad luck. I don’t intentionally abuse vehicles, but I’ve dented and dinged and broken a few things because sometimes shit happens.
What I have not done is use a press car to help flood victims. Nor have I been scolded for doing so, even though the car wasn’t apparently damaged.
A European YouTuber apparently angered Audi by using an RS6 to assist flood victims in Germany, despite the fact that he apparently only used it to haul supplies, equipment, and personnel, and any off-roading he did wasn’t too extreme. It sounds like the car was undamaged.
Yet said YouTuber got an email from Audi that made the brand sound none too pleased with his use of the car.
Here in the States, we sign contracts before each loan promising not to drink and drive, to pay for any parking or speeding tickets, and so on. Some OEMs don’t want their cars street parked overnight (though I am sure it happens in urban areas where it can be unavoidable), and most won’t allow a journalist’s family members to drive without permission. Some frown on transporting pets. It should go without saying that we need permission to take a car to the track or a truck/SUV off-road. We even need special permission to cross into Canada or Mexico, and that has nothing to do with COVID — the requirement has existed for a long time.
I don’t know what Audi allows for its German press cars, but it strikes me that using the car to assist with flood victims would be in-bounds, as long as the driver wasn’t putting the car through off-roading it can’t handle. He did say he drove through some “extreme environments”, but it’s not clear what those environments were/are and if they offered up terrain that would be too tough to tackle for an RS6.
I mean, a road covered in standing water could be considered “extreme”, even if the water isn’t deep enough to damage the car.
One could even make an argument that the journalist showed just what the Audi can — and can’t — do. And that he gave the brand good publicity by showcasing its abilities. That’s called “earned media” — positive publicity the brand didn’t pay for. Any positive review could be considered earned media, and so too could YouTube videos showing an Audi being put to use to help disaster victims.
What say you — was Audi or the journalist in the wrong?
[Image: YouTube screenshot]
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