What’s the role of a car publication in the midst of a global pandemic? This is not a rhetorical question—I’m really asking. Do you know? This kind of thing has never happened before, and we’re off the map.
We began disaster planning a couple of weeks ago, asking ourselves what we would write about and how we would fill a magazine and a website without our access to cars and road trips. Some stories are in the works; some stories we’ve had to cancel as the coronavirus news has grown increasingly worse in reach and intensity. And with each passing day, what we do has felt more superfluous.
Automotive journalism occupies a weird little corner of the overall media landscape. What happens in the broader world affects ours. People buy fewer cars in a recession. In turn, we try to suss it out when an automaker cuts corners. Gas price fluctuations and trends change the makeup of the vehicles on the road—lower fuel prices mean more SUVs. And the decisions made in Washington, D.C., can have sweeping impacts on the car market. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1970s, when rising gas prices, new fuel-efficiency rules, and a stagnant economy led to the production of winners like the AMC Pacer and the Chrysler Cordoba.
We will continue to cover the coronavirus epidemic and its impact on the industry. But there are only so many canceled events and prognosticating one can do, right? Where else do we fit? What else can we do?
In 1996, in the middle of a hot, humid July, my dad died suddenly at 48 years old, and my life imploded. I turn 47 this week, and long before coronavirus became a thing, I was already thinking a lot about how 48 does not seem like enough time. I’ve been thinking about the day of his funeral, which was awful but also quite lovely. On that sunny summer afternoon, after the funeral was over, I sat on my parents’ front lawn surrounded by four of my favorite people in the world. I don’t remember what we talked about, but we laughed. A lot. It was the right medicine for the time.
So I think we have a role in being helpful and entertaining. Using the tools we have to help you stay connected to a community of car-loving, nerdy, irreverent people who like to make each other laugh, and hope you will laugh along with us. Every one of our readers is part of the broader Car and Driver community, and we want to be here to help keep you all connected. To help take your mind off the serious stuff for a while, and to remind you—and ourselves—that it is okay to laugh. Even when things are feeling rough and stressful.
Please, be patient with us as we try to figure our way down this path. Some of our experiments may not work. Some may include dreaded SUVs, and you may be tempted to write something like, “I thought you were CAR and Driver, not SUV and Driver.” If it helps a little, go ahead and write that. We can take it. We’ll still drive SUVs, but that’s the gig.
If all of this social distancing works and does what it is intended to do, in a couple of weeks we can (hopefully) return to our regularly scheduled lives and the hold of the COVID-19 outbreak will begin to weaken. There will be broad economic effects that will last for quite some time, and we will be here to help walk you through the automotive angles.
Ultimately, we hope that the work we do in the coming weeks will remind you that there is life beyond this panicked moment. And remind us all how awesome it will be when we can get back to living that life. We will continue to give you beautiful cars to look at and share our thoughts on them. We hope we get to drive as many as possible, and test as many as possible, in the coming months. But if we don’t, we’ll do what the TV shows do and give you some greatest hits from our past 61 years if we have to. We will still be all about cars (and SUVs, and even trucks) around here no matter what.
So stick with us. And for the love of God, wash your hands.