JOHN YDSTIE, host:
Detroit's Big Three automakers are struggling to return to profitability and to hang on to a significant share of the market. They do that under increased scrutiny, particularly from online journalists and bloggers. One of the oldest automotive blogs is run by Peter DeLorenzo. His site, Autoextremist.com, provides an insider's view of the big issues facing the Motor City.
NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Peter DeLorenzo is a bit like the Detroit auto industry itself. He's getting a little bit older. Some say his product is past its heyday. But dressed in bright Hawaiian shirt, he overflows with self-confidence.
Mr. PETER DELORENZO (Founder, Autoextremist.com): It's the most influential site of its kind on the Web because our audience is made up of the heads of the companies.
BEAUBIEN: DeLorenzo was born in the storied automotive town of Flint, Michigan, to an automotive family. His father was a public relations executive at General Motors.
Mr. DELORENZO: I sort of grew up in the business in the heyday of Detroit, when they were dominating the U.S. market and everything was great.
BEAUBIEN: Each week from his home north of Detroit, the 55-year-old DeLorenzo rips into the big issues with a particularly Detroit slant. He blasts Porsche for pulling out of the Detroit Auto Show. He denounces Chrysler's hybrid plans as having no there there. He rails about politicians in Washington massacring Detroit with new fuel-efficiency standards. And he drops auto executives' names as if everyone knows who they are, and most of his readers do.
DeLorenzo says Detroit's biggest problem is that for two decades, GM, Ford and Chrysler let their quality go down the tubes. But he contends that the U.S. automakers are now making cars that are as good as or better than the imports.
Mr. DELORENZO: Detroit definitely has got the message. They are definitely bringing out good products. Can they bring them out fast enough? That's another issue. Can they get people to buy them or consider them? That's the billion-dollar question.
BEAUBIEN: DeLorenzo started Autoextremist eight years ago, after a career in automotive advertising. Like the carmakers he covers so closely, DeLorenzo himself faces fierce competition.
The site Autoblog has far more information. Automotive News updates its Web site multiple times a day. The Detroit Free Press, Automotive Digest and Edmunds.com all cover the industry extensively online.
(Soundbite of car engine)
BEAUBIEN: South of Detroit at the Milan Dragway, pairs of American muscle cars are racing down a quarter-mile strip as local car enthusiasts vie for a spot in an MTV reality show. 1970s Mustangs race head to head. A red boxy Ford Fairmount takes on a Monte Carlo. There's even a Chrysler Cordova up against a rusting Camaro.
Ray Wert, the Detroit-based editor of Jalopnik.com, is covering the event. Jalopnik was launched two years ago and takes a hipper, more flippant approach to the auto industry. Wert says he reads Autoextremist, but he describes DeLorenzo as an insider looking in on the industry.
Mr. RAY WERT (Editor, Jalopnik.com): In many ways, the Autoextremist is kind of like a columnist. He is a weekly read, but if you want your daily news, you go to other sources.
BEAUBIEN: Peter DeLorenzo says he isn't worried about the competition so long as he's read by the upper echelons of the auto industry. He also isn't concerned about Autoextremist making money. DeLorenzo pays the bills by working as a consultant for some of the same auto companies he covers on his blog each week.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News.
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