I have never met Dan Neil, the Wall Street Journal’s automotive columnist, and the only man in history to win a Pulitzer Prize for automotive writing, but I already know there are several things we wouldn’t necessarily agree on. His apparent obsession with his clothing would be pretty high on this list, but nevertheless I still respect the man. For the new year, he’s published a piece in the WSJ explaining what he believes he got wrong last year. It takes guts to admit you’re wrong and even more guts to tell that to millions of readers. Most notable this year was his flattery of the Fisker Karma, an extended-range EV about which Neil says “I tied myself in knots trying to praise the Karma.” He says that the ugly political mud being slung at electric cars, and at companies that had taken DOE loans to get off the ground, had motivated him to root for the underdog that is the Karma.
As he put it, he was “too easy” on the Fisker Karma, and he now sees that it is “too heavy, too overpromised in terms of performance and efficiency, and it is just too durably weird-looking to love.” I personally like the way it looks, but I see his point. Quite a lot of conversations about electric cars have been far from objective, and much of the time, when there are disagreements about these vehicles, it is politics and not cars that are being argued. An inability to tell genuine interest from political talk has also created a big problem for Nissan when it comes to trying to forecast sales of their electric Leaf, and reviews praising electric cars for no reason other than the fact that they are electric are only going to add to this problem. But Dan Neil has admitted he was wrong, going on to say that he was also too easy on the Dodge Dart. With the Dart, he says that his criticism of its underpowered engine fell much too short of expressing just how aggravatingly slow the car really is. There were some other small technical errors admitted to as well, but the point is that if you were thinking of buying a Karma based on Neil’s word, now might be the time to reconsider.