I have no idea who Vince Lewis is, but it is obvious that his website perfectly symbolizes everything that’s wrong with finding truthful information today. I can’t determine whether irony or tragedy is at work here — possibly both — but it’s been years since so many individuals have sent me e-mails containing the same link. In this case, the link is to a web page that presents an out-and-out fabrication concerning known facts.Keep in mind that these same individuals do not read the known and respected newspapers; they claim it’s a waste of time, since the media’s liberal bias is so evident. None of them remember that it was Vice President Spiro Agnew who coined the pejorative phrase, “the liberal media.” Nor does anyone remember why: Agnew was forced to resign because stories being published about his corruption, during his years as the Governor of Maryland, were true. Yet these same individuals, who constantly bash the reporting of the legitimate press, manage to find the most ridiculous websites posing as real arbiters of truth — and then pass that misinformation around, never once considering that in doing so they are making fools of themselves. Meanness, or Poor Research?Enter Vince Lewis and his website, warning that the auto industry is actually in serious trouble: Automakers worldwide, he concludes, are continuing to build cars that it seems no dealers or the public want. Sure enough, Lewis has put together masses of photos of unsold cars at ports around the world, parked on automakers’ test tracks, and so on. He even starts off his page with the line, “There are hundreds of places like this in the world today and they keep on piling up. And why are they using runways at disused airbases to park thousands of cars if car sales are normal?” Gosh, it sounds as if Lewis doesn’t know certain facts that he should, if he honestly purports to write factually about this industry. For example, ocean ports are always full of cars. They’re either unloaded from cargo ships, and they fill up those lots before trucking companies haul them out to dealerships across the country, or they’re newly manufactured, awaiting the cargo ships that will carry them abroad to their final destinations for sale.The moment I looked at his website in order to verify all the e-mails that had suddenly flooded my inbox, however, I found the first problem. According to Lewis, “Below is [sic] just a few of the 57,000 cars (and growing) that awaiting [sic] delivery from their home in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, USA.” Really, Vince? Your photo shows a lot full of Dodge Durangos — and not even the current Durango, but the 2009 model year at the latest. So that photo is at least five years out of date, possibly more. What’s more, however, this automotive industry insider for one doesn’t believe that that many of the older generation of the Durango were shipped to overseas markets — especially from the Port of Baltimore. Sure enough, he claims the next photo on his page is the most recent image of the Nissan test track in Sunderland, England. Lewis claims Nissan can no longer use it as a test track because it is covered in cars that they can’t get anyone to purchase. Well, in this case I went to Google Maps and entered “Nissan Manufacturing Plant Sunderland, UK”; and just south of the main factory next to the Sunderland Highway, or A1231, is that very test track. And clicking on satellite view, one sees that the test track doesn’t have even one car on it. Looking slightly northwest of that track, one can see the parking lot for the vehicles already built — which is, in fact, full. Again, that’s not uncommon for automobile production. What one does not see is any rail line entering or adjacent to the Nissan facilities, which means the company depends solely on trucking to move finished vehicles out of its yard.My best guess is that Lewis found all of these photos from 2009; that’s when credit markets were frozen and car sales did collapse. Many manufacturers were left with hundreds of thousands of vehicles they had built but for which, in the meltdown’s immediate aftermath, there was no demand. Not to mention that the frozen credit markets meant no one could get letters of credit for shipping.He’s passing off 2009 as 2014.Ignorance As FraudWhat Vince Lewis’s site is telling visitors is that his “investigation” proves that the reported improvement in the worldwide economy is somehow fraudulent — and that all of these auto manufacturers’ “stockpiling cars they’ve built and can’t sell” somehow proves his point.He adds the Port at Sheerness, England, as further proof that unsold cars are piled up worldwide. And to be fair, Googling that location and using the satellite view does show loads of cars on lots next to the River Medway. Well, as it turns out, a little research shows that Sheerness is one of England’s busiest ports for automobiles — the top port for importing vehicles into Great Britain. However, Googling and satellite viewing the Port of Los Angeles or Long Beach will also show loads of new cars — already unloaded and awaiting transport to new car dealers inland.What’s troubling about all this misinformation is how many truly gullible people believe it — or use it to promote some skewed ideology. These non-news-watchers seem blissfully unaware that car sales actually have improved in the United States in each of the past 4.5 years, while European car sales (which indeed fell for the greater part of this past decade) have been climbing consistently for the last five months. They don’t realize that most automobile manufacturers have posted record profits in recent years; having cut back on their excess manufacturing during the Financial Meltdown, they’re now reaping the financial gains for being leaner companies. True, Europe is still struggling, though its sales trend line is definitely improving. But when Lewis states flatly that China’s lots are full of American cars that the Chinese will no longer buy, his skein of lies unravels quickly. The Chinese car market demonstrably is still rapidly expanding; and in any case, their preference is for American-built luxury SUVs. As I pointed out here last week, they can’t get enough of them.Disturbing GullibilityFor 19 years the established media has been incredibly gracious to me, though my columns often correct published reports, or contribute facts that add nuance and balance to stories the media report. What I don’t find in the established media is any intent to propagate misinformation and pass it off as the truth in order to deceive the public. What disturbs me greatly is how many people troll for outrageous websites that publish outlandish claims, then suggest that I’m enabling some nebulous cover-up by not giving these facts to the public. I’m embarrassed for them (since apparently they’re not), for promoting and distributing misinformation and wearing that news pollution like a badge of honor. Remember, these are the same individuals who claim they can’t trust legitimate reporting of critical news stories by reputable establishments.Well, here’s one last verifiable fun fact for the Vince Lewis crowd. One of the key indicators for how our economy is really doing is sales of large Class 8 (big rig) trucks. Those sales fall a year in front of recessions and rise months in front of a recovery. And just last week, orders for new Class 8 trucks hit an eight-year high. So yes, I Googled Freightliner’s Denton factory and found their lot full of Class 8 trucks. But so what? We know those trucks are sold.
© Ed Wallace 2014 Ed Wallace is a recipient of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism. He hosts Wheels, 8:00 to 1:00 Saturdays on 570 KLIF AM. E-mail: email@example.com; read all of Ed’s work at www.insideautomotive.com