Feature: The Ridiculous Myth of the Executive Demo

Feature: The Ridiculous Myth of the Executive Demo

Well, ladies and gentlemen (Ladies! Hah!), the time has come: I’ve decided to debunk another myth. You may remember the last time I debunked a myth. It was when I asserted that the Tail of the Dragon isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, which led to an angry, drawn-out fight between serious drivers and the kind of people who think of a pickup bed as transportation to church.

Fortunately, today’s myth is less controversial and far more informational. That’s because it involves serious automotive insider knowledge that comes from me, a serious automotive insider who once passed an entire 40-hour work week playing web-based Flash games. And what’s the myth? Well, it has to do with the executive demo.

Before we get started, I think it’s important to explain exactly what an “executive demo” is. Here’s what happens: you go to your dealership and find a car on the lot that isn’t quite new, but has, maybe, 5,000 miles on the odometer. You ask the salesman why there’s a car that’s so new, with so few miles, on the used car lot. And he says: “Please don’t disturb me while I’m playing Flash games.”

No, what he says is that this car is an “executive demo.” In other words, it’s a car that was used as a company vehicle by someone at the corporate office; someone so high up that he had a free car; someone so high up that he got free gas; someone so high up that he would never dream of, say, using his company car to teach people to drive a stick shift, which is something that I certainly never did in my company cars, if anyone from my former employer is reading this.

This is exactly what happened when I bought my Cadillac. The first owner listed on the Carfax was a “corporate fleet” with a “corporate title,” which meant it was originally owned by GM. This, by the way, is the only way they could sell new CTS-V wagons: to GM employees who received a sizable discount.

When I asked the salesman about this, his response was simple: this car was an “executive demo,” driven by the kind of General Motors executive who is incredibly careful; an executive who would never do a smoky burnout; an executive who was probably a little old lady hired specifically to drive to and from church, just to be sure the car can operate under such peaceful conditions. Little did he know that he was talking to someone with considerable experience tying a mattress to the top of a Porsche Cayenne, not that I ever did that in any of my company cars, if anyone from my former employer is reading this.

I was reminded of all this executive demo stuff the other day as I browsed YouTube. There, I came across a video where Matt Farah spends what looks like the better part of a weekend doing burnouts in a Shelby GT500. For those who can’t watch the video, I’ll sum it up like this:

Matt Farah driving and reviewing the GT500: 80 percent
Matt Farah enveloped in an enormous cloud of tire smoke: 20 percent

I mention this because, in the video, Matt Farah is almost certainly driving a press car – which is owned by a “corporate fleet” with a “corporate title,” if you ask Carfax. In other words: at this very moment, that car is probably sitting on the lot of Anytown Ford, where the sales staff is telling people that Bill Ford himself drove the car, but only in the occasional parade, where he would throw Gobstoppers to underprivileged Detroit-area schoolchildren while trying to keep the needle below five miles per hour.

All of this makes me think about the space shuttle. You may be familiar with the space shuttle, as it earned quite a lot of fame during its career as a shuttle … for space. Occasionally, it was also transported on the back of another, larger aircraft, like a mama bear giving a piggyback ride to her cub after her cub had just finished a journey … to space. But the space shuttle was also the cause of the most notorious executive demo in history.

As I recall, this is what happened: a space shuttle was recently towed through the Los Angeles area for some reason, possibly as a prop for the next Armageddon movie, where Bruce Willis comes back from the dead to strangle anyone caught humming “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith. Specialized trucks did most of the towing, except for one short stretch when the shuttle crossed over the 405 Freeway. That part was done by a 2012 Toyota Tundra.

That’s right: a 300,000-pound, 184-foot interstellar flying machine was towed by a Toyota Tundra. And not just any Tundra: one that’s owned by a “corporate fleet” with a “corporate title.” Now that’s something I actually never did in my company car.

I can only guess where this Tundra is now, but I bet the owner occasionally says to his passengers: “Is it just me, or did you feel the transmission slip?”

Nah, probably not. I’m sure that Tundra doesn’t have any problems. I’m sure that Tundra is in excellent shape. After all, it was only driven carefully, to and from work, in warm weather, by some bean-counting vice president. Just like all executive demos.

This story originally appeared on Jalopnik.


15 Responses to “ “Feature: The Ridiculous Myth of the Executive Demo”

  1. thelaine says:

    That’s pretty much why I won’t buy a used car from a rental car fleet.

  2. Tom K. says:

    This dovetails perfectly with my maxim of never buy a used WRX (or similar vehicle) form ANYBODY you don’t know personally.

    Because that milquetoast 50-year old CPA is probably selling it to scrounge up bail money for his son, the actual driver of the vehicle.

    • Doug DeMuro says:

      Hahaha. But then you’re stuck with only the cars your friends own!

    • Land Ark says:

      I don’t have many car friends, and I would NEVER buy a car from any of my friends knowing how they maintain them.
      I’d rather take my chances on the open market for an enthusiast’s car because I’d have a better chance of an enthusiast maintaining it.

  3. paulinvegas says:

    I shudder to think about the poor soul who ends up with my company car!
    A question: Are you not writing for TTAC anymore?

  4. Mike says:

    The Toyota ended up here:

    I thought they would have put it in the museum in Torrance.

  5. I made the mistake of buying an executive demo back in 1989–a 1988 Toyota Celica All-trac. It was a steal, $14,000 for a car with an MSRP of $24,000, just a few thousand miles. The line I was given by the dealer is that the car was driven by high-level Toyota execs. Months later, after I’d had a few repairs performed under warranty (more than the typical Toyota), I noticed that a black All-trac also featured in some car magazines’ road tests. I’m 99% sure my “executive demo” was a press car.

  6. a lady says:

    FYI, You might want to take back your “HAH”.
    I am a lady, and I read your work.
    Also, I am passionate about automobiles and driving, to put it simply.
    Just letting you know…

  7. Roger Wiseman says:

    I was one of those “executives” who drove company cars at a major Detroit car company. I had one or two cars a year. We got to choose the model and color. In addition to gas, car washes and oil changes were free. We were expected to keep the cars pristine and everyone I knew did so. Employees got first chance to buy them when they came out of service and they were in high demand.

  8. Chad Garrett says:

    I sold British sports cars back in the ’60s. I would NEVER buy a ‘demo’ or ‘executive vehicle’, knowing how I and the others working at the dealership drove them. Not to mention how they were driven by customers when actually using them as demonstrators.

  9. Wagon Mafia says:

    In regards to buying a used rental car from Enterprise or the like, we’ve all seen the bumper stickers that say “Drive it like you stole it!” If you stole it, you’d drive it REALLY carefully so as to not get caught in your stolen vehicle. The bumper sticker should actually say, “Drive it like you rented it!” WHY would you buy a used rental car? Who thinks this is a good idea? Do people actually do this? Who are they and what is wrong with them?

  10. kokorara says:


  11. JRSF says:

    In Memphis (where I grew up) the dealer called those “brass hat” vehicles. My father bought one. It was a Pontiac Parisienne station wagon, which despite its V8 probably wasn’t capable of burning anything out. Except maybe the radio.

  12. Isaac Marlowe says:

    This may be very late, but I just read your book over christmas (it was awesome, especially over a 12 hour flight), and came to this website after your most recent post on jaloppo. All I can think about is Colin St. John from The Last Open Road, which if you haven’t read, you should because it’s an awesome book for any vintage car enthusiast.

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