Meet the Media: Dan Roth, Producer & Co-host of Wheel Bearings

I’m producer and co-host of Wheel Bearings, a podcast with an emphasis on the future of automobiles, mobility, and the technology that’s taking us there. I also contribute to Forbes, periodically write product reviews for, and I’m always looking to freelance. I occasionally get the opportunity to write feature pieces for Subaru Drive Performance, and those assignments are fun because I’ve interviewed racing drivers, driving instructors, and engineers.

Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
I’m interested in the intersection of technology, especially mobile-powered technology, automobiles, and business. That’s just about everything under the sun, from mobility companies to the features in your brand new car. We tend to be wowed by anything with a screen, but there’s a lot of very high tech stuff going on with materials, metal-bending, and what you might call “old-line” engineering. It also seems as if everyone has forgotten all about good design for human factors.

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
Chrysler did an excellent launch event for the Challenger GT. We left out of Portland, Maine and wound up at Club Motorsports in New Hampshire. At the track, we lapped the go-kart track as sideways as possible. It provided a great sense of how the car handled in a hands-on way. And I wasn’t one of the ones who overdid it and got a car high-centered in a snowbank.

One of the most fun stories I ever wrote was early in my career, while I was contributing to Autoblog. It was an homage to Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection, and its origin as the Bendix Electrojector electronic fuel injection system. That came out in 1958 and was on very few DeSotos. It was problematic, and there was ONE car that had recently been restored with the system. I learned a lot about something I’d had experience with during my formative years working on cars, and then I actually got to see the car itself at the very first Hemmings Concours in Vermont.

What story or stories are you most proud of?
Ralph Nader joined me on the Autoblog Podcast and we talked about the legacy of his book “Unsafe at Any Speed.” That episode is really special to me, because the first half is a conversation with David Cole, his father was Ed Cole, and Ed led the engineering for the Corvair.

I’m not sure what it says about me that two of my favorite pieces are about things that happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s, long before I was even born.

What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I look for the way something will affect the public at large. What does a particular product or development mean to folks who have a zillion concerns and don’t have the time or inclination to care about cars? Will these new features help them? Or will they help a company, instead? What does the long game look like? If it’s tech, how easy is it to use, and why were those decisions made?

I like to take it all in and explain that back at the audience.

How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
I’ve been a car writer since 2006, when I joined up with Autoblog by being in the right place at the right time. I had been a reader and podcast listener, and my OTHER career as a video producer and audio mixer served as an entry point. I sent them an email saying “your podcast is great, but it sounds bad. I can help.” I got lucky that they were looking for writers, but I was also persistent about it. I spent about ten years with Autoblog, and have since written for Road and Track’s site, Forbes, and a bunch of others as a hired gun.

Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
“Probably driving somewhere.” I have a parallel career as a creative director for advertising, and a 90-mile daily round trip. It gives me a lot of time to think and plan. I’d like to build out our single podcast into a small network of complementary shows this year. I also have a video series I’m cooking. Sponsors can please beat a path to our door.

What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Access to company or project principals for interviews or video (especially video) makes for better content. If we can talk to the people involved, we’ll get stronger stories that are more unique, and that’s better for you than the same basic thing regurgitated by different outlets. Don’t pigeon-hole us – you’d be surprised about what we’d be interested in. And Buff books and influencers aren’t really that different. Let’s look for an angle that hasn’t been covered.

Any pet peeves with PR people?
Not really, it’s a hard job in a thankless business. I will say that it’s important to tell us the truth, and be direct about it. Writers reputations are lashed to the veracity and depth of the info and access you provide.

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
There’s always something going on. I like working with my hands, whether it’s on my antique house or my aging cars. Sometimes I get to read or play guitar. Right now, I’m about ⅓ of the way through “The Power Broker,” by Robert Caro. Apparently, I really like history.

I like to get my wife and kids’ perspectives on the cars I get to drive as media loans. It’s always instructive, and you consider things in a way you hadn’t before.

You can check out Wheel Bearings at:
We’re also at @whlbrngscast on Twitter. We’ve got an account for Twitter-based car reviews, too: @twtcarreviews – that’s shared with me, Sam Abuelsamid, and Rebecca Lindland, my co-hosts.

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