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Car confidential: Media fuelling the flames of a crisis

Do you ever despair over headlines you read in the national press? During the current economic difficulties, it’s easy for reporters to lapse into cliché when discussing our industry.

‘Bail-outs’ are bandied around as widely as ‘crises’ are created.

Industry leaders are becoming concerned about the way non-specialist press report our affairs.

I bumped into Mike O’Driscoll at the recent Detroit auto show and he vented his frustration that sensational journalism can ultimately affect the bottom line.

In national newspaperland, Jaguar Land Rover is a company in trouble. It’s true JLR has – as part of the wider UK car manufacturing sector – approached the Government for credit help, but O’Driscoll points out this is a collaborative SMMT approach sparked by the sudden disappearance of bank credit.

‘It’s not a bail-out in the sense that the American car makers have needed emergency aid,’ he muses. ‘But if you read the newspapers in Britain, you would think we are about to close. We are not.’

Even the BBC isn’t immune from talking up looming Carmageddon. A few days ago it published video footage of the new Jaguar XFR on its website saying Jag hoped the new car would prop up falling sales.

This at a time when Jaguar is in fact one of a handful of makers to report increasing sales at home and abroad.

Then there are linguistic inaccuracies with the media in full crisis coverage. Journos don’t like complexity, so Jaguar Land Rover becomes ‘Jag’. Why?

Because it fits better in tight headline spaces, and sod the accuracy.

There’s nothing like a crisis to whip up hysteria. But it’s a media-induced crisis of confidence which is damaging car sales. It’s a vicious circle.

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