Who are we to judge what cars win awards?

Who are we to judge what cars win awards?

The AA ran its yearly car of the year awards last Friday night. It’s a big marketing ploy for the AA because then the manufacturers that win can send out press releases that then get written up in sites like this, and in blogs like mine. Obviously a lot of work goes into running such an event. Lots of cars need to be organised, tested, evaluated and argued over.

But is there enough of a marketing benefit for the AA and for the manufacturers? Actually, the manufacturers probably don’t care too much – if their cars win, they crow; if they don’t, you hear nothing. In terms of the benefit to the AA, it creates buzz and they must have run a cost-benefit analysis to say that X amount of buzz generated exceeds Y amount of costs incurred.

On the evaluation side, though, we journalists are often called upon to make the recommendations. I wasn’t specifically for this particular event, but have done in the past for others. But who are we to say that a car is good or not? Many of the journalists can’t drive very well (one even wrapped a BMW M3 around a lamp post recently, writing it off). Some of us have a racing background and are car nuts – perhaps that makes us more critical of cars that don’t have hard suspension and corner well. Others write about cars because they can, and also write about business and all manner of other subjects. And some are staff journalists with only a passing interest in cars who find themselves on the occasional launch.

We all have different priorities and preferences. I personally didn’t like the Mazda2 enough to vote it above the Subaru WRX in the Motoring Writers Guild COTY awards, but enough of my peers did. Yet, at the AA awards, the Impreza WRX STI cleaned up.

So, what gives us the right to determine what should be COTY when there are other measures that can determine it than the whim of a journalist – sales success, comparative features, number of recalls due to faults, various technical spec comparisons (a bit like Top Trumps!) The answer is nothing. Car awards aren’t designed to pat a manufacturer on the back (though they do). They’re not designed to recognise excellence (though they mostly do). They’re designed with one purpose in mind: to get business exposure for the company giving out the awards.

Perhaps we should run one then.

The AA ran its yearly car of the year awards last Friday night. It’s a big marketing ploy for the AA because then the manufacturers that win can send out press releases that then get written up in sites like this, and in blogs like mine. Obviously a lot of work goes into running such an event. Lots of cars need to be organised, tested, evaluated and argued over.

But is there enough of a marketing benefit for the AA and for the manufacturers? Actually, the manufacturers probably don’t care too much – if their cars win, they crow; if they don’t, you hear nothing. In terms of the benefit to the AA, it creates buzz and they must have run a cost-benefit analysis to say that X amount of buzz generated exceeds Y amount of costs incurred.

On the evaluation side, though, we journalists are often called upon to make the recommendations. I wasn’t specifically for this particular event, but have done in the past for others. But who are we to say that a car is good or not? Many of the journalists can’t drive very well (one even wrapped a BMW M3 around a lamp post recently, writing it off). Some of us have a racing background and are car nuts – perhaps that makes us more critical of cars that don’t have hard suspension and corner well. Others write about cars because they can, and also write about business and all manner of other subjects. And some are staff journalists with only a passing interest in cars who find themselves on the occasional launch.

We all have different priorities and preferences. I personally didn’t like the Mazda2 enough to vote it above the Subaru WRX in the Motoring Writers Guild COTY awards, but enough of my peers did. Yet, at the AA awards, the Impreza WRX STI cleaned up.

So, what gives us the right to determine what should be COTY when there are other measures that can determine it than the whim of a journalist – sales success, comparative features, number of recalls due to faults, various technical spec comparisons (a bit like Top Trumps!) The answer is nothing. Car awards aren’t designed to pat a manufacturer on the back (though they do). They’re not designed to recognise excellence (though they mostly do). They’re designed with one purpose in mind: to get business exposure for the company giving out the awards.

Perhaps we should run one then.

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