You are here:

Porsche claims controversial SA COTY title


The 33rd edition of the oldest and most prestigious automotive awards ceremony in South Africa has again been surrounded by controversy as Porsche claimed its fourth title in six years with the Panamera being crowned the 2018 Wesbank South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) Car of the Year recently.

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.

Going forward

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.

Public perception

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.

Article written by Sean Nurse
Notify me via email when someone comments or replies
- Enter security code
Posted by: Les Stephenson
Submitted: 14-03-2018
Trouble is, Sean, the Coty has not changed basically fpr 20 years or more, merely going from a paper-based to a computer-based system of weighted scoring and (no insult intended) a number of impressionable younger journalists. On top of that, its concept has been overtaken by websites with readerships way greater than those of newspapers and magazines and capable of creating voting systems that include the general public. I know, I founded one of them and edited the other. Nevertheless, the Coty is a useful adjunct to the online polls but I doubt anybody's purchase decision will be affected by the result of the SAGMJ's annual drivefest. Anyway, good luck with the competition for the future.
Posted by: Richard Wiley
Submitted: 14-03-2018
The fact of the matter is that by weighted average, the best car won but there's a lot more to judging a vehicle than mechanical scoring! Four years ago, I submitted a detailed proposal as to how to change the composition of the COTY awards and that mirrored your proposal to categorise entries. eg hatchback, bakkie, saloon, SUV and so on. My guess is that it could be contained to 7 categories but there would still be an overall winner. In my book, the biggest blot on the COTY awards in more recent times is not that Porsches have dominated but that the Golf 7 did not win in its launch year. Here is a mid-range car that won virtually every global award in existence, including World Car of the Year yet it got no recognition in RSA. If ever a car moved the goalposts in terms of refinement and sheer drivability, this was it. There are few cars that truly move goalposts yet this one escaped the notice of our esteemed judges. A casual observation of almost any respected motoring title the world over will show that the Golf 7, now in its seventh year albeit with a minor facelift, is STILL the undisputed class leader which shows just how exceptional it must have been back in 2012. I should disclose that I am a long-term member of the SAGMJ but have never been a COTY judge.
Posted by: Peter
Submitted: 15-03-2018
The scepticism that surrounds the COTY is due to the fact that in general, our motoring scribes are self-appointed experts, who in reality know very little about cars. They all believe they are racing drivers in the making and frankly pay too much attention to this aspect of the judging and too little on the technology and DNA of the vehicle itself. They miss the nuances of what is in the vehicle because they simply do not know enough about them. This is also reflected in their reporting of the vehicles which is no more than a cut and paste exercise either from overseas articles or the manufacturers media brief. Sit a journalist down and ask them about how it is that direct injection actually make a difference in the performance of an engine, or why certain cars have slotted brakes and you will be met with glassy eyes. I roll my eyes when reading a write up on small entry level cars and the journo criticises its handling. The fact that you do mathematical modelling does not mean the best car wins! The basis of the modelling is the criteria which is used – and that is where the issue starts and ends. So no, the COTY is a flawed and extremely unpopular competition that rightly has drawn criticism from the public at large. There is no defence of the competition and unless it changes radically and uses actual experts – it will be relegated to the rubbish heap it deserves.
Posted by: Chris
Submitted: 15-03-2018
Agree. Car magazine's yearly top 3 per category should be way to go. Surely the judges would be blown away climbing into a porche after testing the suzuki..
Posted by: Steve Woolahan
Submitted: 05-10-2018
I totally agree with your comment. I am in the market for a vehicle but would never consider the Porsche a vehicle choice for my needs and would love to have the competition covering the varied choices on the market today.
Posted by: replied to Steve Woolahan
Submitted: 02-02-2019