Dutch Mandel B.S ’80: In the Driver’s Seat at AutoWeek
September 25, 2009
During his undergraduate days, Dutch Mandel B.S ‘80 drove a ‘65 Ford Mustang notchback along the twisty two-lane roads between Lewis & Clark in Portland and his home in Reno. He vividly remembers the metallic blue coupe, which sported a black vinyl top, bucket seats, a three-speed automatic transmission, and a powerful V-8 engine.
“I passed towns like Alturas and Canby in California and Chiloquin, Chemult, and Crescent Lake in Oregon, popping out to the main interstate at Eugene,” he says. “I didn’t think twice about making that 10-hour trip more than a dozen times during college. For me, it was all a part of life’s great adventure.”
For more than a decade, Mandel’s work adventure has been serving as editor and associate publisher of AutoWeek magazine. He was virtually born into car culture. His late father, Leon Mandel, cut a huge swath in the automobile industry–selling cars, writing books, editing Car and Driverand Motor Trend magazines, and serving as vice president and publisher emeritus of AutoWeek.
Fueled by the same fervor that drove his father, Mandel thrives on reporting automotive news–and now there are many more channels for the information. In addition to the print magazine, he launched AutoWeek.com in 1995 and recently introduced a 40-channel syndicated radio show and video on demand. In June, AutoWeek opened on-site television and podcasting studios to produce its own programming for the Web. (Podcasts are available from iTunes at keyword “AutoWeek.”)
“It’s the message, not the medium,” he says. “If you write the words people want to read or listen to, advertisers will follow.”
Mandel’s theory appears solid. AutoWeek has 300,000 subscribers, with an estimated readership of 3 million when passed-along copies are considered. AutoWeek.com boasts 1 million unique visitors each month, and its podcast downloads number 5,000 per day.
“We’re now in partnership with Microsoft, supplying content for the Forza Motorsport 3 racing game that launches in October,” says Mandel, who also serves as the automotive consultant on Disney Pixar’s Cars 2 movie, set to release in 2011.
Given the current state of the American auto industry, Mandel has plenty of news to cover. But despite the industry’s recent upheavals, he believes it will endure.
“From a manufacturing standpoint, cars are the single most complicated consumer product,” he says. “Far more than a commodity, they move us both physically and emotionally, and right or wrong, say something about who we are.”
One person in 10 in the United States works in an auto-related job, he says, and the domestic industry holds two-thirds of all patents for green technology, more than all other car companies combined. Mandel thinks currently available clean-diesel technology could help bridge the gap to future affordable hybrid and hydrogen-based vehicles.
Although the auto industry may be in turmoil, Mandel himself is content. He has an enviable supply of vehicles to test drive, a 1966 Jaguar XKE Roadster parked in his garage, and lively dinner conversations with the likes of racing legend Roger Penske and executives from Mercedes Benz, BMW, Jaguar, and Land Rover.
“I have no need for a midlife crisis,” he says.
–by Pattie Pace