What Does an Automotive Press Association Do With $306,000 of Automaker Cash?

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
what does an automotive press association do with 306 000 of automaker cash

This week, Canada’s most vaunted automotive journalists are at the nation’s best known race track — Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, or Mosport if you’re over the age of 12 — putting the market’s newest vehicles through their paces in a series of tests to select the Canadian Car of the Year.

This year’s event is, on the surface, no different from prior years. However, there is something truly exceptional about the event, dubbed TestFest, for 2016.

The award for Canadian Car of the Year, no matter which automaker wins it, doesn’t matter in the least.

“What makes a ‘best new’ winner?” asks the latest press release from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). It’s a good question, surely, because most Canadians have no idea what goes into considering and selecting the best new Canadian vehicle in any given year.

So I’ll tell you.

Disclosure: I was once a member of AJAC, but haven’t been for a few years.

The basics: any vehicle is eligible to enter if it’s new or significantly redesigned in the current model year or didn’t compete when it was released in a previous model year. (There are some exceptions, but I’m giving you the basics.) Depending on how the car is configured, it’s placed in one of many categories. Each category has at least three entries, meaning some categories are skipped depending on if there are only two or fewer entries for that category in a given year. For example, even though the Honda Ridgeline is new this year, there’s no pickup category this year because of a lack of entrants, so the Ridgeline will still be eligible next year.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the categories that do exist this year:


Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet Spark

Hyundai Elantra

Mini Clubman (Cooper)

Subaru Impreza

The small car segments are hotly contested in Canada and picking from five different eligible vehicles is a monumental task. However, there is a notable absence here: the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback.

It’s even more notable when you realize the 2016 Honda Civic Sedan was Canadian Car of the Year for 2016.

It’s further driven home when you learn the Honda Civic is the best-selling car in Canada.

The new hatchback would’ve likely given the rest of the field a run for its money — but we’ll never know if it’s better than Canada’s second-best-selling car, the Hyundai Elantra, because the Korean compact won’t be eligible next year.

Let’s look at another category:


Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Kia Optima

Kia Optima HEV

Toyota Prius (Technology Package)

Volkswagen Golf (Alltrack)

Now, you — the Best and Brightest — should be able to figure out what’s wrong with this list. However, if you’re a casual reader of TTAC or automotive media in general, I’ll let you in on the boondoggle: there’s not a single full-size car in this list. Not. A. Single. One. The Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima are considered by most to be midsize sedans. The Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Golf are compacts.

Notice something weird about this next category?


Fiat 124 Spider

Ford Focus (RS)

Hyundai Elantra (Sport)

Or this one?


Chrysler Pacifica

GMC Acadia

Mazda CX-9

What about this one?


Cadillac XT5

Lexus RX350 (F Sport Series 3)

Maserati Levante S

Buick Envision

Mercedes-Benz GLC (GLC 300 4MATIC)

I don’t think Sally Soccermom is going to cross-shop the Buick Envision with a Maserati Levante, but maybe the buying public is weirder than I thought.

Regardless of what you think of the segments above and how journalists select the winners of those categories, there’s another massive part of this that needs to be made crystal clear.

Neither Nissan nor Infiniti bothered to show up this year. Audi hasn’t shown up for years. And a lot of it comes down to cost.

For each entry, AJAC requires the manufacturer to provide three identically equipped vehicles plus an entry fee of $9,000. Considering there are 34 entries this year, that means AJAC is fundraising $306,000 CAD directly from the automakers.

But wait — AJAC said in the first sentence of its latest press release that it’s testing “100 vehicles for the purpose of voting on the ‘Best New’ cars and SUVs for 2017.”

That’s bullshit.

Yes, there are 102 vehicles at TestFest, but AJAC members are only considering 34 separate models.

So, you tell me: when a number of manufacturers refuse to take part because of the exorbitant fees demanded by AJAC, when the categories make zero sense, and when the winner from the previous year is eligible but didn’t enter, who is AJAC serving?

When the organization lines its collective pocket with over quarter of a million dollars of automaker cash, is it in that organization’s best interest to stop even if it isn’t helping the consumer?

I think you know the answer.

[Image: AJAC]

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2 of 25 comments
  • Pch101 Pch101 on Oct 29, 2016

    "there’s not a single full-size car in this list" You should put this into context. There are essentially two categories for this price class: "small" and "full-size." There is no intermediate/compact class or something else in between. They are being arbitrary, to a point. The Optima is classed as a full-size car (presumably based upon interior volume), but this thing has compacts in both the "small" and "full-size" slots. I would presume that they did not have enough entrants, so they ended up including compacts in both categories in order to take up the space. The pay-to-play aspect is the real problem here, of course. A lot of "awards" are gimmicks -- the public loves lists and rankings, no matter how useless that they may be, a fact that is not lost on this particular organization -- and this appears to be one of those.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Oct 29, 2016

    I don't tend to pay attention to test rankings. I'll look at test criteria and how they "weight" categories. If they don't bother to explain their test criteria I don't even bother looking any further. Too many "motojourno's" are just presstitutes whoring themselves out for the keys to the test fleet.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?