Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Press Freedom

The blogosphere is great for press freedom. The anonymity that blogging provides allows some of us to attack mainstream media and the business world with great gusto. That same anonymity though can be reason enough to take what is written in the blogosphere with a giant-sized portion of sea salt; especially here at HHV :)

When mainstream media looks at a story from a different angle and presents something other than the cod swaddle marketing mumbo jumbo we've all come to know and love (not), I applaud. It takes some serious chutzpah to tackle issues that local businesses may have a fundamental interest in keeping quiet. When an author signs his or her name to a piece of writing, I'm inclined to believe she or he as well as his or her editor has done their due diligence and checked facts. Which is exactly why this story bothers me so much.
The article, authored by Mr. Clarke, discussed the case of a Broadmead resident who saved $13,000 by purchasing a Mercedes ML350 in Portland rather than from a local dealer.

Dave Wheaton Pontiac Buick GMC Ltd. dealer principal Dave Wheaton said, "I was upset with the paper for doing it because it was one person's opinion" - referring to Ms. Schevenius. "And they are by no stretch of the imagination an expert at it. And why that was news I don't know."

As a result of the article, Mr. Wheaton said, "I barked at them. But that's normal. They have a responsibility to their readers. But they also have a responsibility to the business community as well. And that was a poor article. And it's just not true."
So said newspaper runs an article suggesting readers can save considerable money in the used car market south of the border. Local businessman (sells cars of all things) complains that the article is untrue, poorly written and "just one person's opinion." What did this article say? I'll republish the article in its entirety for your perusal:

Strong Canadian dollar encourages car buyers to cross the border

Rebecca Schevenius has always been willing to go that extra mile for a good bargain.

Or, in the case of the Mercedes ML350 she purchased last month, an extra 300 miles.

Schevenius, a Broadmead resident, says she saved about $13,000 by shopping for the vehicle on the Internet and then flying down to Portland to pick it up.

Prices for quality used cars in the U.S., historically lower than in B.C. to begin with, have become even more attractive due to the strong Canadian dollar.

"With the foreign exchange rate the way it is, it really is on the purchaser's side to go down to the states and buy a car," Schevenius said. "I love a good bargain."

The Mercedes, listed at $22,000 in Portland, would have cost closer to $38,000 north of the border. Even after the taxes were paid, the savings more than justified the time and airfare it took to bring the vehicle back.

Vehicle importers do not have to pay duty on car made within the borders of the North American free Trade Agreement, she said.

Schevenius and a friend are planning to publish an 18-page how-to pamphlet entitled "How to Import a Car into Canada" for others interested in testing the cross-border used car market.

She said it's important to sign a purchase agreement ahead of time stipulating the vehicle must pass a mechanical test. If the deal in Portland fell through, Schevenius had a list of other possible vehicles to buy in the area as a back-up plan.

Peter Tolsma of Sussex Insurance in Langford said the rising Canadian dollar - sitting at 95 cents US as of Friday - has piqued interest from cross-border buyers of in both new and used cars.

"There is way more interest and it's probably not as difficult as most people think," he said.

"A lot of it is just sheer number. Take California, it has about 25 million people and there's just a lot more cars available."

However, new car dealers say the market isn't big enough to have an impact on them.

"I haven't really come across that many because we're on the Island so it's a bit different, but I know some of the dealers near borders are conscious they are losing a few deals to that," said Saunders Subaru sales manager Edie Foster. "Most of those people are going down for really exotic or expensive vehicles."

Industry Canada estimates that Canadians purchased more than 112,000 cars from the U.S. in 2006.

Seems balanced and objective to me. But the editor of the paper has been fired. The author resigned unexpectedly and without public explanation. We know Wheaton was pissed. We also know Wheaton wasn't exactly accurate in his "just one person's opinion" assessment either unless, Foster, Tolsma and Schevenius are one and the same. The author used one private citizen and two industry representatives including a sales manager for his "untrue" article. Wheaton claims to have little to no economic sway over the paper, but given his already proven false comments about this article I'm disinclined to extend him the benefit of the doubt here.

OK, OK, rant over. Why is this story on a RE blog? When business interferes with press freedom, word needs to get out. The car business is big business for sure, but locally it pales in comparison to the business of real estate development; you know that industry which gets two sections of the paper devoted to it every Saturday. What kind of message does this send to reporters who seek to report private people's opinions on the RE market? So much for balanced reporting. Thanks Mr Wheaton, it's a good thing I don't buy domestic cars anyway.


Anonymous said...

I've written the T/C half a dozen times in the last three years lambasting them for their RE cheerleading and utter lack of objectivity and balance in their reporting. Naturally, I've received no acknowledgement whatsoever (not that I expected any). I wonder what degree of correction will need to happen before they turn on their local realtor masters and start telling the truth.


rd said...

Suggestion: develop this web site and the readers to a “potential home buyers association”, to a scale that statistically large enough. Publish surveys from this group on a different point of view from that of RE.

vg said...


I have too and recieved one response and that I was the one who was wrong and the TC had indeed shown both sides of the story by publishing a series on people camping in the streets with their shopping carts full of crap. I responded by saying this is not the typical average income family and of course got no response back. How typical of a press thats a one way street.
They will pump this bubble til the bitter end and you can bet the farm they will deny and twist as it goes down with terms like "the market needs a breather" or "it couldnt go on forever,ask any expert" etc etc.

If Wheaton influenced the demise of TC employees then that is a disgusting sign of media manipulation at its worst but we all know it exists,but now we have some proof.

hhv said...

I should clarify that it was the Island News Group and not the TC that had employees leave/fired.

Anonymous said...

Pravda is alive and well in Victoria.

vg said...

thanks for clarifying that hhv, I may be able to find out the dirt on that one.

vg said...

After reading the entire article Wheaton has come off looking like a fool. My past experience at a big name car lot turned me off from ever doing business with them again without a brand new factory warranty. The car came from Vancouver and they misled me the car was on sale here when it was the same price when the car was in Vancouver the month before then played games with me for months over safety issues and a couple other things that were evident in the 30 day rule. Had to go to the head of the dealership to finally get any action,these guys are scum.

Wheaton is in line with what the Fed Finance guy said that businesses are gouging by not reducing their prices with the massive rise in exchange rate plus Victoria has always been a gouge for prices.
This article exposed the obvious to many but not all,will some go to all the hassle and taxes etc to save a few bucks as in a few thousand ? probably not, but to save $15,000 for the same car ? you bet I would.

hhv said...

It's funny, the woman bought a $40K Mercedes for $27K. Wheaton doesn't even have a product to compete with on his lot. He just makes himself look bad. I wonder what the price difference would be if I bought a used Jeep Wrangler in Portland? Maybe he's trying to hide something?

Aleks said...

Car price disparity is not merely gouging on the exchange rate (like with books) or a supply/demand issue. The issue is that there is a cost associated with getting a car approved for sale within a country, and that cost is fixed. In the US the cost is spread out over far more units sold, lowering the unit cost. In Canada, especially with less mass-market models, there are fewer units sold leading to a much higher unit cost for the certification process. It's not a matter of a car being marked up by $10,000 when it crosses the border, a car certified for sale in Canada has higher overhead than the same car certified for sale in the US.

It's somewhat disappointing that no one pointed this out in the original article, because there's no way Wheaton would ever admit that the price disparity is systemic and unavoidable.

hhv said...

I don't think anyone is claiming that cars should be the same price, or that our cars should be cheaper. But what about the Canadian made Toyota Carolla? Anyway, the point is Wheaton claimed the article was unfair, poorly written and untrue. He was wrong. He should have just let it go. I know people who have imported cars and said they'd never do it again. The reality is it's not easy and it's too expensive for the average consumer; otherwise we'd all be headed to Car Pros Hyundai in Bellingham to get one of those $9,000 Hyundai's.

The real issue though is why did people feel the need to quit or get fired over an article as relatively meaningless as this? It's unlikely we'll ever hear the truth about why the editor was fired, same as why the writer quit. But the optics of this stink, and a business person should have seen that and stayed out of it. Instead of making things quietly disappear, he's stirred up a sh&t storm on this blog (which is mighty small) and on the Public Eye and the Tyee which get considerably better numbers than I do. If this is par for the course on RE reporting, which has a much bigger economic impact on newspaper advertising, then we the consumer are not being dealt with on an open level. And that is what we should be really concerned about, non?

Village said...

If this is par for the course on RE reporting, which has a much bigger economic impact on newspaper advertising, then we the consumer are not being dealt with on an open level. And that is what we should be really concerned about, non?

Unfortunately, I've assumed this has been par for the course for sometime now. MSM is not where I go to get a balanced view of things. With the possible exception of the BBC(it's the accent) and a few other bastions. Rarely do you ever see an in depth look at issues in the media with any research done beyond the superficial.

Should we be concerned? Yes, most definitely. But apathy runs deep in our generation. If it doesn't affect me directly, why should I care.

If you do take a stand, you'll just be labeled a nut case. Thanks to rampant environmentalism with no concept of reality.

I think I'm bitter today. =)

vg said...

"What kind of message does this send to reporters who seek to report private people's opinions on the RE market? So much for balanced reporting. Thanks Mr Wheaton, it's a good thing I don't buy domestic cars anyway."

Rumour has it hhv that they quit in disgust,can't say anymore but your vent is bang on.

Prairieboy said...

2002 Corvette @ Wheaton $41995 CAN$
2002 Corvette @ Brian Harris Used Cars (Seattle) $28000 US$

vg said...


what a gouge ! no wonder he's choked,the cats outta the bag.

I remember people doing it back in the late 70's early 80's driving/towing cars back from California or Washington buying old Vettes and other collector cars but you were only allowed one car a year or something along those lines. Its just a new era where the exchange makes it feasible to do it. From what I hear this guy is a real you know what, so not suprised he pulled the freak out.

hhv said...

I've been looking for a used car, a bit on the cheaper-than-those side. I looked at craigslist today and can't believe the price differences. I can do the km to miles conversion in my head... the only thing holding me back is the trouble of going down there to shop.

That said, I may just do it, get a sticker made up stating how I bought my car and then go park it on the street outside Wheaton's place just out of spite.

hhv said...

And incidently, anyone know of a beauty mid to late 80's early 90's (older than 94) 3 series BMW, preferably a four cylinder and four door that's been looked after? email me.

Anonymous said...

We have one hhv but sorry it's not for sale...yet anyway.


Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting article on the Credit Crunch due to hit Canada.


Anonymous said...

For more information about importing a car from the US, check out the site UCanImport.com. I believe this was the site created by the two women who imported the Mercedes that started the mess with the Victoria News...