Matt Yglesias says:
There’s no denying that this is a pretty amusing poster. Still, it reminds me that I think the film engaged in a bit of revisionism when it portrayed the Autobots as humanoid-shaped robots capable of change into cars and trucks and so forth. My understanding from my childhood is that we should think of them as car-shaped robots capable of changing into humanoid-shaped ones. After all, they’re called autobots, like automobiles. Their essential property is their car-ishness.
No surprise that Matt is being ahistorical, and relying on analysis of terminology, instead of relying on the facts (his background is in philosophy). As it happens, in the cartoon the Transformers are shown as humanoids on Cybertron, with their transformed state being different! In other words, the constant and essential aspect of Transformers was their humanoid, not their mechanical, form. Additionally naive human psychology does not generally attribute theory of mind to machines, but obviously Transformers were active agents.
Matt’s argument makes sense with Voltron. This was a mechanical entity whose humanoid form was entirely incidental and cosmetic, and the constituent lions were themselves mechanical objects under human control.