Ah, car of the year (COTY) awards. The magical time of year when every magazine, website, and national auto journalist association decides that it has to make a definitive call on the best automobile that money can buy. And though nobody on the consumer end really takes these things seriously (when have you ever heard someone say they bought a car because it was (institution name here’s) COTY?), the folks in charge of these awards get incredibly intense about their mission. Take the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and its self-righteous rage at a Canadian journalist, Michael Banovsky, who had the gall to report that the Canadian COTY competition removes perfect scores (as revealed in the judge training webinar video above). The AJAC immediately demanded a retraction, clarifying what their video didn’t:
No votes were thrown out, but rather if any appear as a 10, they are “discounted” to 9.9 during tabulation by the international accounting firm of KPMG. This has been the practice for many years because, as any experienced automotive journalist knows, nothing is perfect, especially something as complex as a motor vehicle.
I encourage and appreciate debate about the much-respected Canadian Car of the Year (CCotY) competition, widely regarded as one of the most thorough vehicle evaluations in the world. However, I also demand complete public transparency with not only the voting process, but how votes are weighted, tabulated, and scored. Since Canadian vehicle manufacturers spend tens of thousands of dollars to enter models for consideration in the CCotY and the car buying public spends tens of thousands of dollars on purchases based on results of the competition, complete transparency is a must.
And he’s got a good point. In the video above, the AJAC claims that providing journalists with a free track day and OEMs with marketing fodder are only “secondary benefits” of the competition. The primary purpose is “to provide consumers with sound comparative information on vehicles that are new to the market… to assist them in making informed shopping and purchase decision.” But if that were truly the case, its judging criteria and complete competition data would be made publicly available, in which case judges would not have had their scores altered.
In reality though, informing good consumer choices has nothing to do with the Canadian, or any other, COTY competition. After all, how can the AJAC be so adamant that no car deserves a perfect 10 score, when the entire point of the exercise is to elevate a single vehicle across every segment, price point capability? Consumers buy different vehicles based on their individual needs, and suggesting that a single model should be perceived in a more favorable light regardless of ones’ individual needs is downright anti-consumer. Indeed, the very idea of awarding a single vehicle the title of “Car Of The Year” is undeniably a product of the industry-media complex. Hiding the “secondary benefits” of marketing fodder and a free journo trackday behind the veneer of consumer education is frankly, a bad joke. Though the Canadian COTY may not (as Autoguide suggested then retracted) be rigged, that doesn’t mean the CCOTY is in any way a meaningful competition. As such, who cares if they throw out perfect scores or not. If AJAC is serious about providing valuable consumer information, they would do well to heed Mr Banovsky’s critique, rather than blindly and defensively lashing out at him.