As one of the twenty-six member-strong jury from this year, I feel that I have a right to express my concerns regarding the competition and how, in my humble opinion, this competition can move forward with relevance and public support.
The COTY competition
The competition itself has clearly marked and recently revised rules and regulations, a tablet-based scoring system with weighting for selected categories, a large jury of experienced motoring scribes and is generally well set-up to find the best car released that year.
As I've said before "Overall though, the tablet system along with the statistically sound scoring system that the Guild has established with the help of the University of Pretoria’s Mathematics Department, means that at the end of the day, the best car really does take the title." According to the rules and regulations, the best car does take the title, but that has proven to be unpopular with the general public.
The problem stems from public perception, which has made the competition and its winners more controversial during the past few years, It would appear then that the public wants the format or rules and regulations of the competition to be changed to allow vehicles that are more representative of what the average person can afford to have a better chance at taking the title.
Panamera is a phenomenal car
There is no denying that the Panamera is a fantastic car in terms of engineering, performance within its segment and overall excellence. But the problem isn't with the Porsche itself, it appears to be with the fact that the car that won, regardless of its make or model, for the vast majority of the aspiring and current car-owning public, is not within the realms of reasonable affordability and attainability. That being said, the sad reality for most South Africans is that a car of any kind isn't attainable at the moment.
The competition prides itself on awarding motoring excellence with the use of a comprehensive and weighted scoring system. So by definition, again, the Porsche is a very worthy winner according to the current rules and criteria of the competition. It’s a pity because some of the prestige of winning the competition has been stripped from the Panamera when in reality it’s a phenomenal vehicle from a brand known for producing great products.
The question I have asked myself and indeed, many peers though, is whether the competition holds value for the average South African if, as was the case this year, the top three cars in the competition represent a small percentage of the overall passenger vehicles sold annually.
I gathered a large pool of admittedly anecdotal and indeed, social media-based sentiment surrounding the competition. From the web to Facebook, Instagram and the fast-paced and brutal world of Twitter, the responses to the announcement of the winner were, broadly speaking, negative.
Again, this isn't the public disputing the excellence of the Porsche, but asking for a winner that is more attainable to a larger portion of the population.
My fear regarding the competition going forward is the fact that if the public continues its negative sentiment towards the event, that we'll have a competition with little to no relevance. If the vast majority of the population find a problem with the winner, I don't foresee many individuals caring for the end result each year.
There isn't concrete, surveyed and researched evidence stating that the competition and its winner in 2018 are not popular with the general public, but again, I'm going on social media responses to articles, Tweets, Facebook posts and Insta-pics where the average social media user who's willing to interact is either not bothered or expresses negativity towards the Car of the Year competition.
Proposal of categories
While awarding overall motoring excellence is a key objective of the Car of the Year competition, it may be time to introduce categories to the competition. This way, vehicles can be awarded in a way that makes the competition and its organisers appear more pragmatic to the general public.
The competition could have a few categories to award cars for excellence within broad automotive categories while still maintaining an overall ‘Car of the Year’ award.
An example to illustrate my point is; if the Porsche won 'Premium' or 'Luxury' Car of the Year, I feel that the public would be more understanding, despite the fact that the same merits that won it the overall competition would likely give it the proposed category victory.
I’m not proclaiming that this is the absolute solution to the Car of the Year conundrum, but something along these lines is likely a better bet when looking at other competitions of this nature both globally and locally.
At the end of the day, the general public still believes that the jury is pitting all of the finalists against one another instead of against each vehicle’s most accomplished rivals. Despite the fact that each finalist is judged against its chief opposition, the aforementioned public perception is only perpetuated when the likes of the Panamera is crowned the winner.
Despite the fact that the rules and regulations were followed, we still find ourselves in obscurity. Something needs to change if the competition wants support from the general populace.