By on October 25, 2017

Image: J.D. Power Lexus AwardGlossy magazines present multi-page spreads on their winners. Poorly funded websites present annual lists of their favorites. Other organizations that rate all sorts of consumer products give out actual, physical plaques and trophies to their winners.

Yes, we’re talking about automotive awards today. Everybody’s doing it, and with a bit of searching, one might even find a particular grouping of awards which suits their particular special interest.

But do you care?

2018 Subaru Crosstrek - Image: SubaruAs you’re a well-read and worldly member of the B&B here at TTAC, we know you cast a more critical eye on everything automotive. Today, we want to know the value you place on the various automotive awards, “Ten Best” lists, and those shiny plaques.

Are any of these awards important to you in selecting a vehicle? Does the J.D. Power award resting atop the hood of a Mercedes-Benz or Honda let you know that there’s a great vehicle behind it?

How about the lengthy results of the Road & Track Performance Car of the Year test? Do the side-by-side comparisons and perfectly produced photos stand for much in the real world, where everyone actually lives?

There’s a darker side to all this as well, and it’s the side where some awards are a profit exercise. In order to participate, manufacturers provide vehicles and pay a fee to the organization doling out the awards. The cars are used in the test, and the fees are used to throw a big, luxurious track day party. But in theory, this isolated example is behind us. Or is it?

When it comes down to it, where do you draw the line? How much do you care about the plaque Toyota receives from the Anonymous Consumer Research Corporation?

[Images: J.D. Power, Subaru]

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49 Comments on “QOTD: Do You Care About Automotive Awards?...”

  • avatar

    My answer is both yes and no. No because I still feel as though most if not all cars should be damn near perfect in the first 90 days.

    No because I feel like the OEMs game the system at times when it comes to safety. For instance today a Ford product my have poor passenger offset results and six months from now they will get 5 stars due to the addition of an extra bar. This with out any type of redesign at all.

    Yes because 5 years of ownership is important and if an car can go through that with minimal issues then getting an award is worth it.

    I dont know if they do 10 year reliability awards but they should.
    I dont mind “best interior” or “best engine” awards because they matter but only to certain folks.

    • 0 avatar

      Crash test “awards” are far less subjective than other awards magazines and consumer groups hand out. You can prove why a vehicle received a good score, and they do with every single one.

      “due to the addition of an extra bar. This with out any type of redesign at all.”

      Um, adding a structural bar that dramatically improves crash performance is a “type of redesign”, is it not? If the crash performance was improved, then what else needed to be redesigned? Should they alter things that have no bearing on the crash performance whatsoever, just to satisfy your need to see more changes in order to make the improved results more acceptable to you?

      What if a car scored poorly due to having no side airbags, then next year, side airbags were added, so it’s score improved? What’s the difference in that and adding a structural bar that affects crash protection? It didn’t do well because of no “A”, then “A” was added, and it did better.

      • 0 avatar

        IMO adding a bar is not a redesign at all its just adding a bar. Maybe 2lbs maybe 10 but I dont believe they but that much thought into. All they did is place something that either should have been there in the first place or just want to appease the crash test folks.

        • 0 avatar

          So what you’re saying is you don’t understand how crash performance works. Nor how much engineering goes into a vehicle to make it behave in a certain way during an impact event.

          The bar wasn’t added to make the people testing the vehicle feel better, it was added because it altered the way the vehicle performed. This was proven by subsequent testing.
          They didn’t just randomly add something here and there, hoping it might make a difference, it was a bit more involved in that.

          But, you’re right, the fact that it did far better after the bar was added means they just did the equivalent of adding a bumper sticker that says “I’m safe!” and that fixed everything. No thought behind it, no engineering, no “design”. Just some crap they tacked on to make people feel better.

          If it took no engineering whatsoever (and made no difference whatsoever) to know that the bar would improve the results, then why should it be there in the first place? Why should any safety or crash related designs be used? Its just the marketing guys throwing a bunch of things at the wall, hoping some of it sticks and makes the testing guys feel better when they randomly pick one vehicle without reason as being safe or not, right? Its just a bunch of high school drop outs who have no clue what they’re doing, obviously, they just said “oh, I hope this works, I found it in the scrap bin and we can JB Weld it on… somewhere, I guess, maybe that will do something”.

          There is no argument that it should have been there in all models from the start. But dismissing it as just some random BS added with no research or process is really quite unfair.

        • 0 avatar

          Having worked on the repair side of things, I can tell you that ‘adding a bar’ as a structural brace to prevent intrusion was likely not a trivial thing.

  • avatar

    I care only if the award reinforces my previously-held biases.

    • 0 avatar

      This guy understands humanity.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with this statement because it reinforces my previously held bias about previously held bias’seses.

      The Chrysler K cars as “Motor Trend Car Of The Year” was all it took to burst my bubble. It’s all advertising in the end.

    • 0 avatar

      This guy gets it. I buy vehicles because I like them. The last thing I’ll do is listen to what some biased reporter or consumer reports idiot thinks. I’ve driven enough vehicles over the years to know that you can get a lemon from any mfr. just as well as anyone can build a damn fine and reliable vehicle. Often I point to my old Taurus with the “terrible” AXOD transmission made of tin foil. Well mine was run hard well past 200k miles w/out a problem. The Accord that replaced it was a far more expensive car to maintain to that same mileage. For my mileage awards aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

      Now all that said if some body wants to give an award to a vehicle I bought, sure as shit I’ll remember that. If they don’t – screw ’em, they’re the idiots, not me.

  • avatar

    I don’t care one bit. I assume many are bought and paid for. Those that aren’t, well I’m sure the designers and engineers are proud of it, and that’s good for them, but it makes no difference to me.

    I don’t care about COTY or Ten Best lists anymore since they started apologizing for past winners. Unless the winner is disqualified *because its manufacturer bought the win*, there is no reason to back track years later. The Contour’s interior was too small? Did you not notice that when you tested it back then? Obviously you did, and thought the car was good enough to make up for it…until it became unpopular and a commercial failure, then suddenly its time for a rethink.

    I’m only using the Contour as an example, I’m not necessarily defending it in particular, the point is it was evidently good enough to win over the journalist back then, so its unfair to go back and judge it now. The same goes for a Citation winning car of the year, or any other currently disgraced car. By today’s perspective, its an awful car. That doesn’t mean it didn’t do many things quite well when tested new.

    If that was the case, ALL past winners should be retracted. Why? Well, if we can go back and judge them from today’s perspective, they’d all stack up pretty terrible. The 1988 Accord doesn’t even have ABS or an airbag one! For shame! Lol, see how silly that is? If it legitimately won back then, the win should stand, no matter what happened to the car, or other cars, in the years since.

    Again, the only possible reason for retracting an award should be if the manufacturer had paid for it to win, and nobody is going to admit that happened, nor would they return the money that was paid for the car to win, so that’s never going to be the case.

    • 0 avatar

      John, I have to agree with you on this. In addition, my criteria for a 10-Best Driver/Truck/Mommyvan candidate will be a lot different than yours or these editors.

      I used to subscribe to Autoweek years ago. Every year they would have a reader’s poll of the best “whatever-category” car. I don’t how many average guys had the time or money to compare all of the cars in a particular category. How could you come to any consensus on this? Everyone has different wants/needs. After the first couple of years of that silliness, I stopped reading that issue.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a good point. Yes, you can get an impression of a car from a test drive, but who drives *every* model in a given category, each for several days to get an actual sense of what its like to live with? Only those with access to press fleets, or perhaps as you said, someone with more time and money than he knows what to do with.

        People vote with their wallets, and obviously that’s what they’ll vote for in such a survey. Ask me the best midsize sedan from 1995. I’ll give you one guess as to my answer. LOL! Well, is it the same as yours? Or his? Or hers? Or Joe Shmoe down the street? Maybe. Maybe not. For me, it is the correct answer, and that’s the only person I can accurately speak for.

        • 0 avatar

          Some award from some magazine/website may or may not match my real world needs. In all fairness, there was a time where these things had more relevancy as we had fewer choices and far fewer communications choices. But these days, with all of the changes in communications and all of the niche segments, these awards seem to have a lot less relevance.

          I’m a fairly adaptable guy, too. I could just as easily live with a Malibu as a Camry as an Escape as a Pacifica as a F-150 as a Fiat 500… Car of the Year? Who cares. JD Power? Great! Until it breaks out of warranty. Then what?

  • avatar

    I like awards where a shoe drops say, couple years later. Like car of the year then dual-clutch burns in…

  • avatar

    Most (many?) awards are relevant if taken in the correct context. Consumer reports probably has the best reliability data. The glossy mags probably do highlight vehicles which represent a big leap in technology or are deserving of some recognition. (I agree that something like the citation may deserve car of the year due to the technology it introduced – but you have to acknowledge the award says nothing about reliability.)

    Other awards like j.d. Power are just a business – you have to pay them to use their name in an ad, and they make most of their money selling their services to improve a cars standing in the results. It’s a silly system that signifies very little.

    • 0 avatar

      “but you have to acknowledge the award says nothing about reliability.”

      Exactly. The award was for the car with the most innovative design, the best driving experience, and so on. It wasn’t an “undisputed best car of all time, future or past” award, it was an award for the best new car that year. The car was good, but it was let down by poor reliability and quality later. That didn’t (and shouldn’t) have any bearing on the award it received when it was first released. Being unreliable didn’t mean the car didn’t test well. It just means GM (in this case) designed a good car and then handicapped it with awful quality. Kinda like a lot of their cars from that era and beyond.

    • 0 avatar

      The day Consumer Reports recommend Falken Ziex 512 is the day that I call them shen and threw its opinion into the trash. What a POS tire they try to promote.

  • avatar


    I first pick out the car, then use the awards to convince my wife there’s no other better car.

    No matter the car, it has SOME awards from somewhere, so it always works.

    It doesn’t influence MY decisions, but I can use them as support to get her to agree.

  • avatar

    Normally I don’t. However ever since GM started those offense real people? ads with Mr. Valium moderator touting multiple awards, I haven’t visited a GM showroom, and won’t :D I suppose the awards part of those is the lesser of my resulting anti-GM feelings!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Many of Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” winners have been turds:

    2002: Ford Thunderbird – really?

    • 0 avatar

      Compared to the Chevy Vega that won MT COTY back in 197X, that T-bird was a gem!

    • 0 avatar

      Just for the grins I went down that list. I’ll have to give Motor Trend credit, it takes a certain amount of guts to be willing to publish the entire list, given that about 20% of them are also on the list of “greatest automotive boners ever made, post WWII division.”

      Then again, I also noticed they disabled to comments section of that article. Guess courage only goes so far.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2002 T-bird wasn’t anything close to a turd. It was just overpriced. Way overpriced.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I think everyone uses a sliding scale for automotive awards. Consumer Reports, as fussy and grannyish as they are; and True Delta are valued higher than a slick magazine award, and it’s 12-page special advertising segment or the blatant falseness of J.D. Power; pay us and we’ll give you an award. How about listing 10-20 automotive awards and let us rate them from first to worst. Also, I understand there’s a deep animus between Michael Karesh and Jack Baruth.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Good lord I hate the GM commercials touting their J.D. Power awards. J.D. Power will give an award to anyone with a checkbook.

    How I wish among the B&B of this site was someone from GM top brass just so we could plead with said individual to fire the current Ad agency.

    And this is from a guy who at this point has 4 GM cars in his garage, so it’s not like I am one of the haters among the B&B.

    • 0 avatar

      We need a ‘Like’ button on this site.

    • 0 avatar

      @ 87 Morgan – Agree 100%. I’ve always felt like J.D. Power actually was a subsidiary of Buick. And I’m a fellow non-hater. The family garage isn’t and hasn’t been exclusively GM, but our experience has been uniformly positive over the past six GM vehicles and 39 years.

      And yet I hate those ads too. General, are you listening?

  • avatar

    Not one bit. Every car has some award and is best in class for some exact configuration. If it’s used in marketing, it’s been twisted, contorted, or otherwise manipulated to show how this car is the best. On top of that, look past the award at who is handing it out. I’m no expert myself, but there are many organizations handing out awards where i feel i wouldn’t be out of my league jumping in on the rulings.

    The only awards that i will give any credence to are safety awards due to crash testing.

  • avatar

    Only if its the Malcolm Baldrige National Award for Quality!

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    Award winner? Don’t care, not at all important. If it isn’t bought and paid for, it probably weights things different than I would. The best car is pretty subjective. However, last place is something that interests me, as do the critical reviews of a car.

    Example: I was in the market for a 3-row SUV a few years back. At the time the Explorer looked like the right choice in every way, but the Sync thing had some pretty negative reviews, so I rented one for a weekend. It was horrendous. I couldn’t get it to do anything. I couldn’t live with it. I passed on the Ford because I would have touched those buttons a dozen times a day.

    Example 2: Later, I was in the market for an AWD cute ute. Enter the Outback, which I loved, but there were some negative reviews about passenger seat comfort for tall passengers. One of the main reasons to buy the car was to have something my then wife would be comfortable driving with me in the passenger seat on long trips. I sat in the passenger seat and it was a torture chamber because it didn’t raise. Moved on immediately.

    Ultimately ended up with the MDX instead of either, because my then wife drove a TSX and felt comfortable in something with a similar layout, I liked how it drove, it is invisible to cops, and I found one with the specs I wanted for the right price. It didn’t win any comparisons, but it perfectly met my needs and I liked it.

    When I’m shopping for my next car, a previous generation NSX, I’ll be scouring the internet for criticisms of whatever year I settle on, and then the forums for possible fixes. I don’t care what the best baby supercar of 2001 was according to a car magazine, I care about what people hate about it and whether or not I think I can live with that.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t care less; the only reliability metrics I’ll accept are ones collected over the first five and ten years of a car’s life. My perception of brand reliability in 2017 is based on the current condition of what they made in 2007 and 2012.

  • avatar

    Automotive awards remind me soccer awards. Both, often, given based on perceptions. As result, better players don’t get awarded.

  • avatar

    Awards don’t factor on my decisions because my needs, desires, past experiences almost NEVER align with some random marketing puff piece. I’ll briefly check TrueDelta and Consumer Reports to see there is some major issue. Mostly sniffing around the ‘net on various forums tells you what to look out for.

    Not sure if they still do it but for awhile Edmunds did long term tests where a chosen car swapped between multiple drivers over a year – which each one logging their experience blog style. I though this was great because you got real world feedback on things like squeaky center consoles that difficult to access USB ports. Or center exhausts that get your pant legs dirty when loading groceries into the trunk. I find that kind of info more valuable then the prodigious “Best Wheel Center Cap” award.

  • avatar

    I don’t care at all for the J.D.Power awards – they mean absolutely nothing. As for the others, no. I only give a secondary and sometimes a third glance at CR’s rating, which is an award of sorts, as it helps sell cars that get a good mark.

  • avatar

    Awards have no relevance for me.
    They might as well give an award for the best pancakes.
    Different people like different things and have different experiences.
    I met a couple that had a Mazda rotary engine wagon. As opposed to all the horror stories and lawsuits about engine failure, their’s was still original and near 20 years old. They were quite happy with it.
    Consumer Reports reliability ratings can tell you something, but last time I checked most of the data is from owner/self reports. That can cause some distortion. For example a customer’s car required a cylinder head replacement. Someone had cross-threaded a spark plug and then botched the installation of a thread repair insert. After the job was done I noticed the owner writing in a notebook. It was a log of maintenance and repairs. For the head replacement they had written “engine overhaul”.

  • avatar

    Not in the slightest. Nearly all of them are bought and paid for and the few that aren’t are still judgements of brand new, loaded press cars in the context of other brand new, loaded press cars.

    Rental reviews are as good as it gets, and that’s still not very good.

  • avatar

    Not really.

    Cars in 2017 are generally very good and are likely to go 100k miles without a major mechanical malfunction, or even changing the spark plugs.

    Drive the car. Do you like it? Does it have the features you want? What good is a car with a stack of awards if you aren’t comfortable in the seats or you don’t like how the engine is tuned?

  • avatar

    I care about car awards like I care about Oscars, Emmys and Grammys….that is to say I don’t care at all.

    Every car wins some sort of award these days anyway. It’s like a city’s Best Of awards. Every restaurant seems to be on the Best Of list every year. We all get participation trophies!!!

  • avatar

    I care if I know how they work. JD Powers is one I don’t care about. Every dealer has a half dozen of ’em, no one out side the organization knows how they are awarded. It’s just a money making scheme as far as I can tell.

    Motor Trend’s car of the year is only awarded to cars that will advertise in their magazine and feature the award on tv commercials.

    In the end, the only award I trust (most of the time) is the Fred Award. Acura TSX Sportwagon has one since 2014.

  • avatar

    No! Ditto for Oscars, Emmy, Grammy, Tony, People’s Choice, CMA VMA, AMA. and everything else.

  • avatar

    Just say no to awards. And clickbait… oh crap!

  • avatar


    Modern cars are built very well and are generally very reliable. Buy what you like and don’t listen to the haters.

  • avatar

    The only true award that really matters is the “resell value percentage remains” award. Consumers’ own wallets are truth, all others can be corrupted.

    The problem is it is only useful at the end of a model’s run, you won’t know what is it good for when a new design came out.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Looking at the Euro COTY list, with prominent winners as
    Austin 1800
    NSU Ro80
    Citroën GS
    Simca-Chrysler Horizon

    – so no, I can’t be bothered. 2011-12 it was two EVs, you know… by accident. We have commercially available EVs since 1996. New cars can’t be accurately measured in all possible ways. The new BMW M6 Cabriolet might be the best car, but it is better than the Audi RS4 Convertible? The only objective measure will be a bunch of numbers in two columns and maybe a witty paragraph in the comparison test. None of these cars will be featured 10 years later in Classic & Sports Car. Because they won’t be around with their 2-liter 450hp engines, their praised infotainment systems will be hopelessly outdated and unusable.

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