Autocar accused of dodgy balsawood car tactics

We did get in and it did move but we didn’t drive it. We’re just enthusiastic about new cars.Patrick Fuller

Haymarket’s weekly car magazine Autocar is accused of overstepping the mark with a front-page exclusive on the new Ford StreetKa convertible.

Industry insiders believe the article is misleading and suggests that the car has been test driven by journalists, when in fact it is not due to launch for another two years and is a plastic and balsawood ‘concept’ with no proper engine.

The story was exposed by The Mail on Sunday but Haymarket was quick to play down the row. It was written by editor-in-chief of the motoring group, Steve Cropley, who is a Haymarket director.

Danny Morris, publishing director of Fast Car, said: "They have overstepped the mark in terms of getting the exclusive. It is pushing one’s editorial licence too far. I understand why they have done it because there is fierce competition to get scoops but if you are actually commenting on the drivability of a car, its merits and faults, how can you do that based on a balsawood model?" Patrick Fuller, publisher of Autocar, said: "It is a fine judgement but we did not at any stage say we had driven the car. We did get in and it did move but we didn’t drive it. We’re just enthusiastic about new cars. Steve has been in the business 25 years. He wrote the rule book on motorcar journalism. The fact that he is a director is irrelevant."

Fuller hit back at calls from some motoring journalists for a PCC investigation, branding it "utter nonsense". "We believe The Mail on Sunday was upset because we scooped them and they got their own back." He said Haymarket was "upset" by the story but there were no plans to change editorial policy or take any form of action.

"I can guarantee we are going to do the same story again. We like to make the cars real to our readers," he said.

It is not the first time a car magazine has been criticised over car tests. Auto Express came under fire for computer manipulation of pictures in 1999.

By Ruth Addicott

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