5.17.2009

A New Day Dawns at Car and Driver



(Graphic originally created and posted by Jalopnik.)

Do you know this man? You will. It will be on his watch, most likely, that America's best car magazine (and once upon a time...say 1982-1985...I'd argue, America's best magazine, period) will either fade away or enter a new golden era.

I'm betting on the latter.

His name is Eddie Alterman. Never met him, never exchanged a single phone call or e-mail...but I've read his stuff over the years (MPG, Jalopnik) and he's good. Really good. He's the new editor-in-chief at Car and Driver, replacing Csaba Csere after a very long run.

It wasn't Csaba's fault, but a tremendous amount of decline occurred in the last few years. Cost-cutting as the general malaise in print hit Car and Driver resulted in some bad decisions (parting ways with the legendary Brock Yates, a highly-questionable re-design, an at least temporary dumbing down of the once brilliant writing that was a hallmark of C/D) that only accelerated the attrition of the faithful.

The June 2009 issue is Alterman's first, and while it's too early to tell much, there are some encouraging signs: The art and graphics are cleaning up, the brilliant and hilarious John Phillips has four pieces in this issue (after months where he was so low-profile that I was checking the masthead in fear that he'd been Yates'd) and Csaba himself is on-board with the first in a series on Certified Pre-Owned vehicles (apparently he no longer has access to the C/D press fleet).

But most encouraging is the tone Alterman himself sets in his introductory column. The two worst things that could have happened to this magazine would have been to hire someone with no sense of the history of Car and Driver or to hire someone who treated it like a museum...with blinders on as to where magazines (or whatever might replace magazines) are heading and a plan to get there first.

Alterman, in his late 30s, has hands-on experience with the web (which is no walk in the park...Winding Road has gone to a subscription model for its innovative .pdf edition, which rarely works for something that's been free for years, and The Truth About Cars has suggested recently that it's going to need to see some money from readers to stay afloat), but was raised by a father who read C/D religiously. Alterman not only knows who David E. Davis, Jr. is, he interned for him at Automobile. And he also knows from Leon Mandel, Don Sherman, William Jeanes and Karl Ludvigsen.

With archrivals Motor Trend and Automobile in trouble (parent company Source Interlink has filed for bankruptcy protection), Car and Driver has a unique opportunity to get very far out in front.

Go read Eddie's column online...then go down to Barnes & Noble and get one of the subscription cards out of the magazine and mail it in. A 2-year sub is 75 cents an issue (newstand price is $4.99). I'm betting you'll be renewing in 2011.

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