By on November 24, 2009

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.

Banovsky’s response:

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.

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15 Comments on “Canadian Car Of The Year Kerfluffle...”

  • avatar

    CotY awards are, and always have been, a crock. No auto rag or website can make your car buying decision for you. The best thing anyone can do when purchasing a car is read the hard numbers, and drive the cars themselves to determine what works best for them.

    • 0 avatar

      I hereby nominate myself to let TTAC make my next buying decision.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, this is nothing more than cute information.
      However, every cars sight is really doing the same thing…even TTAC.
      The bottom line, when making such a personal decision (it is for me), YOU need to get out and into every car that seems to fit your need.
      Drive and redrive.
      And even then it comes down to gut and heart.
      This has to be the toughest business to be in.

      In the end…you pick the one that has the most checks next to it and grabs your heart and thrills you.

  • avatar

    lol-ing @ Rick.  Yes car buying is extremely subjective and each individual should get what suits them.  Unless your one of those rare people who get a new car every couple of years, it should really fit you in every way you can think of.  (BTW I keep my cars about 10 years or so.)
    But having said that I would look at the reviews in TTAC to give me an idea of which cars I might decide to drive while making my decision.

  • avatar

    “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.”
    I wholeheartedly agree. What journo’s should be doing is weeding out the cars that the consumer – whoever they are – under no circumstances should ever buy because it’s a heap of junk. There you go TTAC – you should have a Worst Car Of The Year (WCOTY) award. That’ll put some noses out of place.

  • avatar

    All zeros should be a 0.1, too.

  • avatar

    (when have you ever heard someone say they bought a car because it was (institution name here’s) COTY?)

    Maybe not purchased a car because it was COTY, but I’ve certainly heard buyers brag about/rationalize the purchase because it was (institution name here’s) COTY?).

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Newly released models only are included AJAC’s annual free booze-up. In a self-serving, wonderful coincidence they have the largest marketing budgets.

  • avatar

    I do remember a friend of mine bought a Vega saying it was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.   That was a long time ago and about when I stopped taking MT seriously.

  • avatar

    Ya know…
    There isnt anything wrong being anti-consumer. Its a trait I try dearly to hold onto.
    Nothing makes me happy than a bunch of crap thrown to people who just empty their pocketbooks..
    And if youve noticed…
    Everyone is driving the same damn kind of vehicle.
    Few people actually have different needs.
    And those that “do” are ignored by the auto industry.
    Witness the lack of sporty driving cars from Toyota. Celica, Supra to name a few.
    Witness the abundance of virtually the same vehicle.. just in different packaging.. for seating purposes… of course. Highlander, RX, Sienna, FJ, Land Cruiser, 4Runner, Rav4, and VENZA. All of which can and could completely stand in for the other.
    Go try to find a economical sedan from Honda that looks decent and weighs under 3000lbs. Ya stuck with the Civic.. that is without a hatch… and an Accord that has been eating wayyyyyy tooo many bonbons. As for as the Crosstour goes.. I cant even fathom that hatred.
    In short…
    The cars that are most wanted.. is what the majoity wants.
    Just like Consumer Reports..
    They wan a Beige in and out Camry… with the 4cycl and weighing about 3600lbs. Gutless, no power and issues with sludge, mats and not so much as of a ounce of actual driving ability needed to drive the thing.

  • avatar

    Must be a Canadian thing…my research grant applications to Canadian granting councils are rated on a 0 – 4.9 scale. Therefore I say…BIG DEAL.

    The AJAC system seems pretty empirical, though. Ironic that they are the ones having their rubric dragged through the blogomud…

  • avatar

    Isn’t the car of the year the one with the most sales?   Or alternatively the one with the greatest profitability for the manufacturer?

    Anyone know which car sold the most in any given year worldwide?

  • avatar

    Hey, it’s an entertainment.  The journalists get to play with cars for free, the readers get to read the output and perhaps have some food for thought.  I think that for fokls that like several cars and cannot decide which one would be the best, this award might be helpful.  Whether 10 points are downgraded to 9.9 or 9 makes no difference as long as the scale stays the same.

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