About Us

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Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief: “A native of Los Angeles, I have worked as a newspaperman for most of the past two decades in both the Chicago and L.A. areas. As’s EIC, I work with this great team to bring you all the news, research and advice you’ll need to buy your next car. I’m not a gearhead, but more of a fan of how cars are becoming smarter, more comfortable and more fun.”

First car: 1985 Toyota pickup with absolutely no options, including no rear bumper


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David Thomas, managing editor: “I’ve gone from editing’s news blog KickingTires and to overseeing not only the stories you see on our site but also how we reach car shoppers via social media. Like the rest of our team, I try to keep my hands in a bit of everything and review new cars, take part in our Challenges and even “star” in a video or two. I have a thing for station wagons and own a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 VW Passat wagon. Secretly, though, I lust for a BMW M3 and lately have fallen for the Infiniti QX60.”

First car: 1989 Ford Probe

Find me on Google+


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Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor: “After six years in the magazine business, I made the jump to web publishing in 1995 to apply my experience with photography, video and the written word. I joined the launch team in 1997 and, well, time flies.

I’d say my emphasis is cutting through marketing claims and technobabble to determine what really matters to car buyers. Nothing tees me off more than supposed improvements that degrade the driving experience. I’m the harshest critic of transmission performance that you’re ever likely to meet, and I remain baffled by the SUV craze, but I judge all vehicles on their own merit. If I have a shortcoming, it’s a blindness to the image aspect of vehicles. SUVs and sports cars don’t make you cool, and minivans don’t make you lame. Many people, and the entire state of California, clearly disagree.”

First car: “My first car was a 1971 Oldsmobile Delta 88 whose 455-cubic-inch engine awoke the car nut in me — and made me a big-block snob for eternity. I survived more than 10 years owning a ’79 Fiat Spider I bought from Tom (“Click”) Magliozzi from NPR’s Car Talk, which I recently replaced with the “tuna boat,” a 1984 Mercedes 300D turbo diesel. I keep a 2002 Mazda Miata SE as a reliable backup.”

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Bill Jackson, assistant managing editor/research & production: “I handle the Buying Guides and parts of the Research channel here, in addition to writing Weekend Athlete for KickingTires. I’ve moved all over the place, both as a kid and as a former newspaperman. I like any car that carries my bike, Nordic skis and camping gear.”

First car: 1973 Volkswagen Beetle


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Jennifer Newman, assistant managing editor/editing: “I’m a married urban mom with two busy boys, ages 6 and 10. On the weekends, I can be found navigating Chicago’s streets in my 2013 Subaru Outback, which handles my kids’ sports gear. I spend my weekdays editing stories and installing child-safety seats into test cars for our Car Seat Checks. My miniscule amount of downtime is spent playing baseball or video games with my kids.”

First Car: Ford Escort, no idea on the year


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Eric Rossi, assistant managing editor/multimedia: “I manage the’s multimedia team. I have my hands in all forms of digital media in the office, but I’m a car junkie at heart. I’ve been to every Chicago Auto Show since I was 3, and I can only keep a car for about two years before the need for something different gets the best of me. I’ve been fortunate to combine my passion for video production and my love of cars here at I began my career at after graduating from Bradley University, but during college I ran my own car detailing business called ‘A Touch of Hollywood.’ “

First car: 1990 Toyota SR5 pickup truck named Mabel


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Kristin Varela, senior editor/family: “I’m the senior family editor at and the mom of two amazing girls, ages 9 and 11, and an adorable stepdaughter, age 7. My mom-mobile is whatever car I’m testing, and that’s what you’ll see me driving when I take the girls to dance classes, piano lessons or school. How’s that for mixing work and family time? I do manage to find time for simple indulgences like bubble baths, yoga or an hour with a good book, and I relish the time I spend with my girls. They still kiss me when I drop them off at school, so I’m a happy mama.”

First car: A red 1985 GMC Jimmy S10 with a rusty white stripe down the side and a personalized license plate that read “QUEPASA.” What can I say? I’m a recovering nerd who left high school early every day to attend Spanish classes at the local university.

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Mark Williams, editor, “I’m a veteran automotive journalist with 25 years of experience. I’ve worked at Four Wheeler magazine, including two years as editor. In 2000, I joined Motor Trend as its expert on all things pickup, SUV and four-wheel drive. In addition, I became editor at Truck Trend. Before joining, I was a freelance automotive expert, loaning out my writing and enthusiast-market expertise to outlets such as Motor Trend, Popular Mechanics,, and several others. I was a Motor Press Guild board member for several years, and I’m also a longtime soccer coach, most recently finishing my ninth season as the local junior high head coach. I live in Southern California with my wife and enjoy camping, hiking, skiing, big trucks and towing, and back-country 4×4 driving.”

First car: 1966 Volkswagen Beetle


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Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief: “I joined the Editorial team in 2012 after a seven-year stint as an auto-industry analyst covering everything from new models to corporate strategy to sales trends. I’ve got more than 20 years in the auto industry, having worked in sales at Bosch Braking Systems and as a production buyer for Nissan as well. Now, I’m the Detroit bureau chief for and a contributor to Personally, I’m a huge car guy, always have been. I grew up mostly in the Detroit area and come from an automotive family. The industry is in my blood, and my passion for it runs deep. I’m in Ann Arbor, Mich., and I bleed maize and blue!”

First car: An almost-new 1991 Ford Escort GT. It was bright red, had a five-speed stick, sunroof and rear seats that folded down to provide enough room to carry everything I owned off to college.


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Joe Bruzek, road test editor: “I’m a hands-on kind of guy and especially enjoy writing about the cars we test every week. I watch over our long-term fleet of test cars, reporting what we like and don’t as well as quirks of ownership. In addition to coverage of our long-term fleet, I have my hand in reviews, videos, our Challenges, news and auto-show coverage, plus behind-the-scenes work like making sure the specifications and data you see on our site are accurate. I’m a hobbyist on the weekends and race, break and fix my 1998 Pontiac Trans Am — mostly the break and fix parts.”

First car: 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Police Car


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Jen Burklow, copy editor: “Born in Chicago, I’ve lived in the north and west suburbs for all but four years spent in journalism school at Indiana University. I worked for 20 years at the Chicago Sun-Times in a variety of editing positions before leaving to freelance and spend more time with my four smart and talented daughters/stepdaughters, who are now grown. For the last four years I served as the freelance assistant editor for the Sun-Times ToDrive section. Combine that with being raised by a car-crazy father and joining as a copy editor feels like the perfect fit. With four kids — and now four dogs — to haul around, vans have been our preferred mode of transportation. We currently own our second GMC Safari (our previous vans were Fords) and use a Nissan Sentra for tooling around sans kids and dogs. Free time finds me playing/training/walking/hiking with our dogs, biking/boating/fishing with family and reading whenever I can.”

First car: An Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a cranky carburetor that left me stranded more often than not.


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Paul Dolan, visual designer: “I have worked in Chicago for 25-plus years as an illustrator and print/web designer, partnering with a diverse and dynamic group of newspapers, publishing companies, design firms and ad agencies. Most recently I have had the good fortune to add my illustration and design work to the already-impressive pages of and in my role as visual designer. Outside of work, my time is spent chasing my two younger boys (ages 6 and 10) around the house, watching my 19-year-old play guitar in his band, Twin Peaks, and with my wife visiting as many events and exhibits in Chicago as time and baby-sitting money allow.

First car: A 1968 Plymouth VIP. I called it “The Boat” because it could seat four people across both the front and the backseats. Ultimately, it was a sad and unintentionally ironic moniker as it would frequently stall in a heavy rain.


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Jennifer Geiger, news editor: I’m a Chicago “lifer” and admitted word nerd who studied English at DePaul University and started my editorial career at Consumer Guide Automotive. I joined in late 2011 as a reviewer and manager of the Kicking Tires blog. How I wound up in automotive journalism is something I still ask myself, often out loud, in moments of both awe (piloting a Mercedes-Benz CLS AMG through Napa Valley’s twisties), and annoyance (slogging through rush-hour traffic in a Dodge Caliber).

Though manual transmissions and I are in a good place now, I still have nightmares about how I learned stick: a crash course on a 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco during a cross-country road trip in 1999. A three-minute lesson and the open road are not a good combination; toll booths still make me nervous.

First car: I learned to drive on a 1995 Ford Contour and helped my then-boyfriend, now-husband buy a 1999 Saturn SL2 in 2002 and a 2003 Hyundai Elantra.


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Mike Hanley, research editor: “After briefly writing for, I joined in 2002. I’ve held a variety of positions since then and am currently one of the site’s resident car reviewers. Though I often give high marks to cars with superb handling qualities, I have a soft spot for old Detroit land yachts. I also tend to prefer manual transmissions, though I’m thankful today’s stick shifts are more refined than the one in the 1951 Willys Station Wagon that I learned on.”

First car: 1975 Chevrolet Impala coupe


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Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor: “A Seattle native, I joined in 2006 after developing an automotive section at my college newspaper and working briefly at Over the years I’ve wrangled cars for our test fleet, evaluated hundreds of models, hosted countless videos and covered the auto industry as it relates to car shoppers. I’m a firm believer that consumers should know they have real choices, and depending on their needs, some cars fit the bill a lot better than others.”

First car: A 1994 Toyota Celica GT, a car on which I learned to drive stick. Should I have failed to master the manual, motivation came in the form of my parents’ 1989 Toyota Van, an automatic-transmission alternative. I learned soon enough.


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Chad Rubel, production editor: “My first car had a wonderful safety feature: You could never lock your keys in it since you needed the key to lock it. When I got the car, there was one significant problem: I didn’t know how to drive a stick. The lessons with my father didn’t go well, but eventually I learned that life skill. And now, I only want to drive automatics.”

First car: 1980 Pontiac Sunbird, very used.


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Matt Avery, multimedia editor: “As the primary videographer for, shooting cars is second nature to me. In my role, I’ve been able to combine my two passions — media and cars. I’ve worked as an ASE-certified technician for both BMW and Mercedes-Benz while living on the East Coast. I graduated with a degree in electronic media and film from Towson University and began working as an assistant writer and production assistant for ‘MotorWeek.’ Whether it be the Rolls-Royce Phantom or Toyota Sienna, nothing brings me more satisfaction than infusing creativity into my shots to highlight the car or truck I’m shooting. If the viewer enjoys what he sees, I’m happy and know it was a job well done. “

First car: Two Ford Mustangs that I modified during my high school years.


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Lindsay Bjerregaard, multimedia editor: “After graduating from the University of Iowa, I started at as a multimedia intern. In my first week I shot video of a Jaguar XK convertible, so I knew this job was going to be a perfect fit. I mainly shoot, edit and appear in videos for the site. My 2007 Toyota Corolla — Steve Carella — has starred in multiple Advice videos.”

First car: 2000 Ford Taurus


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Ryan Peterson, multimedia editor: “I’ve been a video editor for years with my first big freelance project focusing on the largest RV dealer network in America. I went on to work with both start-ups and large multinational corporations before joining’s multimedia team.

“I taught myself how to drive manual, but failed my first driver’s license test.”

First car: My first vehicle was a 1993 Ford F-150; it was white with a pink pinstripe.


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Evan Sears, photo editor: I’ve always been a gearhead. It could be from being born and raised in Motown, or perhaps it’s because every bicycle or car I’ve owned has been a clunker and needed near-constant mechanical attention. Before joining, I worked as an editorial and commercial photographer for more than 10 years, shooting for many Chicago-area publications and several national clients.

First car: 1987 Honda Prelude

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Rick Popely, contributor: “My background is in newspapers and magazines, and I edited buying guides and road-test issues for Consumer Guide Automotive for more than 15 years before becoming an automotive writer for the Chicago Tribune. When I started covering the auto industry, rear-wheel drive, carburetors and three- and four-speed automatic transmissions (with steering-column shift levers) were the norm — and almost nobody drove an SUV.

In addition to contributing to, the Tribune and others, I am the host of “Cars, Trucks and Bucks,” a weekly online radio show on

First car: A used 1966 Ford Mustang that, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought. I found out too late that it had suffered major damage in an accident. Years later, that experience motivated me to help others make smarter choices about buying and owning a vehicle.

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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