Coming Together Through Covid: NEMPA Looks Ahead to a Better Autumn

Clifford Atiyeh
Vice President, New England Motor Press Association

It’s getting better. We’re not yet through the strangle of coronavirus or its continuing effects on the automotive industry, but we are making the best of it. In March well into April, when everything was a “no”— auto shows, car production, car sales, events, meetings, offices, global travel—I was seriously worried that every automaker would ground the press fleets when we needed them most. Still, as I write this on Labor Day, the pandemic has cut our work down to a computer, a chair, and the car parked outside. 

Most of us, whether media or manufacturer, were already ravaged by gutted staffs and slashed budgets over the past two years. Coronavirus accelerated an inevitable decline, and the press fleet became all that was left. It is the media’s lifeblood and livelihood. It is now the manufacturer’s only way to demonstrate physical products. And nearly everyone, in these worst of times, has stepped up and helped each other when it seemed impossible.

Automotion has brought rigorous sanitization and contactless delivery into each and every loan. Journalists are helping out, too, by wiping down surfaces and ensuring our fleet drivers are safe. We have pushed as many stories, videos, photographs, podcasts and broadcasts as possible, even when, for a while, there was seemingly nothing new to report. But soon, there was.

Without in-person meetings at our garage, NEMPA hosted five of them over video conferences. Lisa Barrow of Fiat Chrysler first approached us in May to show the new UConnect 5 infotainment system. Then it was Steve Oldham of Nissan, who connected us with his company’s design studio in California. Lisa came back with a special presentation on Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary by the museum curator in Italy. By July, with travel bans and lockdowns lifted, NEMPA members joined in a socially-distanced, open-air meeting in Middleboro along with more members over Zoom. 

Feb. 2020 NEMPA Winter Vehicle Test Days

By far the best was the Ragtop Road Rally, a remote version of the famous Ragtop Ramble that put more than 40 participants across the country in a unique scavenger hunt-style competition. Together, with nearly as much attendance as in years past, we captured the spirit of this legendary event across social media with 15 challenges. We posed with lobsters, visited car museums, ate at rest stops, and promoted each vehicle everywhere possible. It didn’t matter what anyone was driving or where they were going—the stakes for Maine blueberry pie were too high to miss! An extra special thank-you to our PR friends who went along for the ride: Lori Scholz, Corey Proffitt, Tamara Mlynarczyk, Rhonda Belluso, Lindsay Munson, Chris Naughton, Lisa Barrow, Steve Oldham, Davis Adams, Doug Haartz, Berj Alexanian, and Ford Bronco chief designer Paul Wraith. 

We want to continue this momentum and do our best to bolster the press fleet as life, ever so slowly, begins to normalize. With Winter Vehicle Testing ahead, we want to be certain we have the latest models (2021) for testing and that we have enough cars and trucks to circulate to our 40-plus members in the media across all six New England states. Ford, Acura, and Genesis are planning in-person, socially-distanced outdoor meetings with NEMPA this fall. This level of support is incredible. To all our automaker colleagues: Call us, email us—whatever you do, please keep the Boston fleet stocked. 

I want to quit 2020 just like everyone does, but the plan is simple. What we choose to do in hard times is what we’ll remember when the good times come back. Let’s get through it, like we’ve done before, together.

Yours in solidarity,

Clifford Atiyeh
Vice President, New England Motor Press Association

One Response to Coming Together Through Covid: NEMPA Looks Ahead to a Better Autumn

  1. Jim Barisano September 4, 2020 at 9:50 pm #

    Thanks Clifford! Let us at Wheelstv know how we can help spread the word for each OEM that works with NEMPA.
    Best, Jim

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