‘Ultimate Dude’ Dan Neil Is In a Class All His Own

Dan Neil has the “ultimate dude’s job.” In fact, he just got back from a work trip to Iceland where he picked up a hitchhiker who ate Dan and his coworker out of house and, well… automobile.

Confused about why picking up strangers in the middle of Iceland is a “dude’s job?” It’s because Dan is a car critic for The Wall Street Journal. He was in Iceland test driving the new Land Rover Discovery Sport when he came upon a woman hitchhiking on a frozen road. Then she ate his cake. Read the story here. Trust me, it’s worth a click.

Dan has been everywhere from Detroit to Paris to Turin to Geneva. He’s driven everything from Lamborghinis to Camrys to sports cars to minivans. After he returns from these exotic (or not-so-exotic) locations, he writes about his experience for millions of readers.

Dan’s job allows him to express himself, often very humorously, in his column “Rumble Seat,” which runs weekly on Saturdays in the Off Duty section of The Wall Street Journal. You can check out his column here.

While working for a newspaper in North Carolina as an editor, Dan slipped a car review he had written into the paper. Little did he know that would be the beginning of a very successful career as an automotive critic.

Dan worked for The New York Times and Car and Driver Magazine before moving to The Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. To date, it is the only time the award has gone to a critic of automotive arts.

“I think if anything I have raised the literary standards of automotive journalism, which is not exactly a philosophic thought in the first place,” said Dan. “So I’ve gently nudged expectations for others that follow me.”

Dan will be a speaker at TEDxNavesink 2015 where he will engage participants in the automotive world. His talk, “Balls to the Wall! A History of the Accelerator Pedal,” will present serious ideas about transportation and technology. The theme of TEDxNavesink 2015 is accelerators—a perfect fit for Dan.

“The notion of the accelerator, which your conference uses in the metaphorical sense, stems from a pretty interesting technical journey as engineers tried to keep a handle, to control, the power of combustion,” he said.

But he’ll bring something else to the table at TEDxNavesink.

“I’m hilarious,” he said.

And if his column in The Wall Street Journal is any proof of his sense of humor, participants of TEDxNavesink won’t be disappointed.

“Rumble Seat” is snappy, witty, and sometimes cutting commentary on the automotive world. Dan uses rich language and descriptive narrative to create a never-seen-before kind of automotive column, full of humor and personal anecdotes. Dan brings a variety of ideas into his columns, and it’s clear that he is passionate about the industry—both cars and writing about them.

“Transportation represents about 30 percent of mankind’s total output of climate-changing greenhouse gas,” said Dan. “I would like to see it down to 10 percent in the USA, and maybe make the task of climate remediation a bit easier.”

Dan has been an advocate for electric-powered mobility since GM’s EV1, an electric car produced in the late 90s. This is something that he enjoys sharing with audiences.

“I’d very much like to see the age of personal electrical transportation arrive before I leave the stage,” said Dan. “So every chance I get I explain the carbon cycle and the practicalities of EV (electric vehicles), perhaps just slightly moving the needle.”

But there’s one more thing Dan wants to get from speaking at TEDxNavesink 2015.

“A video for my kids,” he said. “Hey, remember when Dad had his marbles?”

Hear Dan’s “Balls to the Wall” talk at TEDxNavesink 2015: Accelerators! Tickets are on sale now. But hurry, they go as quickly as the Lamborghini Dan drove in central France! Get yours here!

Stephanie Eichmeyer is a content production and marketing specialist for the TEDxNavesink team. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in communication from Monmouth University. Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in journalism and PR for many years.