Detroit's International Award of the Year Awards
I’m not big on ceremony. Throw in a couple of blowhard politicians, a bevy of self-congratulatory industry execs and a swarm of self-important journalist jackals; and meetings like the 12th Annual International Car of the Year Awards are like kryptonite to my modest superpowers. The invitation from the friendly folks at Road and Travel Magazine read, “Regrets not Required.” In my case, regret was inevitable. Still, I donned a monkey suit and took one for the team with as much enthusiasm as I approached my first doctor’s visit after my fortieth birthday. Fortunately my doctor was quick and his gentle finger was warm, so that experience was not as bad as I had grimly anticipated. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the green-themed ICOTY award pageant.
If you are thinking, I know C&D, MT and R&T, but what the hell is RTM, it’s probably because you aren’t a woman. Road & Travel Magazine was founded in 1989 by the lovely Courtney Caldwell to entertain and inform the fairer sex about all things automotive. The periodical founded the ICOTY in 1996, as an Academy Awards for automobiles.
The evening got off to a bumpy start with remarks by Michigan Representative John D. Dingell. Give the congressman credit; he boldly and proudly referenced the draconian increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. His words hung in the air above the heads of the audience born by tension and uncomfortable silence. All was made right when the old Washington warhorse called for applause for all the workers and management who supported the legislation.
This year’s convocation marked the bestowal of the first ever Earth Angel Award. This sappy honorific is designed to laud the most environmentally harmonious automaker; the car company that best carries the torch for alternative fuel transportation and whose “company position and mission on global warming” is most politically correct.
“Global warming is top-of-mind for everyone these days,” said Caldwell. “Automakers are too often criticized for environmental insensitivity when the reality is that they’re really making enormous strides on a global level to improve the earth’s environment.”
August former CBS newsman, Walter Cronkite, who wants mankind to turn back the tide of increasing global temperatures by driving new and improved cars, heralded in the inaugural Earth Angel Award via taped introduction. Carl Levin, Michigan's Senior Senator, bestowed the first-ever Earth Angel Award upon the General Motors Corporation.
In the estimation of RTM’s esteemed panel, The General best allows pistonheads to purge themselves of guilt for ravaging the earth. How so? By mapping out a comprehensive plan that will transform the automobile from a filthy mechanical machine into a clean electric appliance. Riiiiight.
The culmination of the gala event: the announcement of the International Car of the Year Award winner. J.D. Power and Associates counts votes for the nominees (not a difficult job since the electorate is comprised of a panel of just 12 “respected” journalists).
Unfortunately, the group’s previous picks look like a menagerie of mediocre moribund models mired on a used car dealership: Pontiac Grand Prix (1997), Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998), Ford Windstar (1999), PT Cruiser (2001), Jaguar X-type (2002), and Dodge Charger (2006). This is hardly a lineup of the best cars in the world. More likely these pickings bear the undeniable stench of money mildewed by a passage under the desk of RTM’s advertising director.
If you still care, the night’s winners include:
• Honda Accord Sedan, the International Car of The Year, and “Most Dependable” Sedan of the Year
• Chrysler Town & Country, International Truck of the Year, and “Most Compatible” Minivan of the Year
• GMC Sierra Denali, “Most Athletic” Pick Up Truck of the Year
• Audi R8, “Most Sex Appeal” Sports Car of the Year
• Mercedes Benz S63 AMG, “Most Respected” Luxury Car of the Year
• Volvo C30, “Most Spirited” Entry Level Car of the Year
• Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, “Most Resourceful” SUV of the Year
Clearly the Honda Accord was a safe choice, perhaps an attempt to atone for past indiscretions. The Audi R8’s selection proves that ugly is the new sexy. The only winner that seemed to rankle the crowd, at least those outside of the Ford family, was the inclusion of the pricy Volvo C30 in the entry level car category.
By night’s end, the sickening sweet smell of 1984 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon permeated the room and the band played on. In black ties and evening gowns, industry manager misters and their silicone sisters renewed old acquaintances within the attendant corps of scribes. To everyone’s relief, the charade was complete for another year. As for me, my doctor tells me that I have the prostate of a twenty year-old; the prognosis is good that I’ll live to suffer through the ICOTY Awards again in 2009. Assuming I'm invited.
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