My Car Quest

June 21, 2024

Editorial: Why Do Automakers Charge Writers Who Want to Write About Their Cars?

by Wallace Wyss –

I talked to a Corvette writer the other day, and he’s got plenty to talk about on the new Corvette but I was shocked to find that GM wanted to charge him $200 per picture to get pictures of clay models for a new book.

And you need minimum of 100 pictures to do a car book. So what’s that, he should spend $200,000 to print a book he might make $20,000 on? Already I had a similar problem with Ford where, when I said I needed more historic pictures for more books on the GT40s at Le Mans they said something to the effect of “Oh, you’ll have to talk to our licensing agency?”

I could hardly believe it. I and other book and magazine authors, are writing books that praise the history, evolution and design of their cars. Our writing costs them nothing. And they get thousands of new fans who appreciate their cars, new people into the tent so to speak.

Corvette Clay Model

We can appreciate the 2020 Corvette more if we know from whence it came, the paths not taken…

I know how it happened. The Detroit automakers have all hit a rough patch here and there and some bailed out with taxpayer’s loans. So some bean counter who knows nothing of car history says “What–you’re giving something away? You should charge for that!”

So now let’s say GM is making $40,000 a year from selling pictures to book authors. But they should look at the logic of this. They make a pittance but what would really help the bottom line of the Corporation is more authors praising the product. But us authors, if faced with doing a book on, say Porsche, Corvette or Mustang, have to go with the auto brand where the pictures are free. I remember one time going to Porsche PR in Germany and they pointed at the photo archives and said “Take what you want.”

Oh sure when there’s a new model roll-out, all the companies give out pictures of the new car free. In the old days there would be a press kit. Now it’s likely a little flash drive (when they want to give me one of those at the auto show preview, I walk away). So it’s very two-faced: “If you want to talk about our current product, yessir, yessir, three bags full.”

Mustang Station Wagon

Some day Ford might want to build a wagon Mustang – why not whet the appetite to show the idea has been gestating?

But if say I ask Ford for pictures of the Mustang station wagon clay model then it’s “Talk to this guy” who turns out to be an intermediary outside firm who will quote you the price. Never mind it was US taxpayers who kept those firms afloat during this and that
crisis. No, they want to charge us (and guess what, writers pay taxes) for writing something that promotes their products!

In sum, I hope PR men and women throughout the industry think about how they are cutting off their toes to spite their face or something like that because they create ill will whenever historians want to write about their product and they reveal that they not only make cars but are in the business of selling pictures (which is chicken feed in total income).

You wonder too, where some authors are still writing books like this, with 50 or more historical or clay model shots, how they are affording it? Could it be that certain authors are letting their books words be approved so they can get the pictures free? If so the word “smarmy” comes to mind. The reader is not getting the real story, especially when the car hasn’t even hit the streets yet.

In my book on the ’05-’06 Ford GT I indeed pointed out a flaw in the early cars but also pointed out it was quickly fixed. Some GT owners were mad that I pointed it out but they aren’t thanking me that their cars are worth 50% to 100% more than they paid for them new partly thanks to books like mine on their evolution and design gestation.

There’s new model cars that appeared and disappeared in a flash like the Buick Cascada that would have been written about more if plenty of archival pictures would have been available on their styling evolution etc.

And so it is. As a historian of things mechanical with this poor attitude being exhibited many automakers, instead of writing about the marque what I want to write about, I have to write about cars where the makers are not so mercenary as wanting the outside writers to pay them for the privilege of writing about them.

What say you, reader?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car books, all car histories. Right now he is writing a fiction anthology where at least no one is charging for pictures.

corvette book

The author says he couldn’t do an updated version of this book today because he’s to pay thousands for pictures to publish a book that praises GM’s Design evolution process.

Editorial: Why Do Automakers Charge Writers Who Want to Write About Their Cars?
Article Name
Editorial: Why Do Automakers Charge Writers Who Want to Write About Their Cars?
I and other book and magazine authors, are writing books that praise the history, evolution and design of cars. Our writing costs them nothing, yet automakers wants to charge the writer for pictures.


  1. This is short sighted on the part of manufacturers, they will drive journalist to smaller firms doing interesting projects who are thrilled to get the press…

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