AT THIS POINT, you’re probably expecting me to start mining the back catalogue, drawing from history to tell you why Wheels Car of the Year is the oldest and best award of its type. But I’m not. Because you probably don’t care.
It doesn’t really concern most of you that some bearded blokes decided to give the first gong to a Renault 8 back in 1963 or that Wheels’ is the longest continually-running Car of the Year award in the world. It’s important to us, but the truth is, we’re only really as good as our last verdict.
That verdict went to the Volvo XC40 which is currently the best-selling vehicle in its sector, coming from a base of zero. It’s fair to say the market has taken to Volvo’s baby SUV. Prior to judging last year, the XC40 wasn’t heavily fancied, but the process delivered.
The refinement of the process is what generates a strong and fair result. That gets tweaked from year to year. This year we included a score on a car’s charisma, x-factor, call it what you want, but it’s an integral aspect of why we buy premium vehicles. We also modified the Value criterion. No longer would a car be marked down merely for being expensive. If it’s good value in relation to its group of peers, it’s reasonable to say that it’s good value full stop.
Cynics amongst you may well combine those two changes and reason that Wheels has given carte blanche to vehicles from the top end of town, but the pointy end of COTY 2020 threw up a satisfying mix of vehicles across a diverse array of price brackets. Like me, you’ll have to wait until the official announcement on January 30 to discover the winner, as one enduring aspect of the process is the editor is the one who tots up the votes and keeps that knowledge to himself for as long as possible.
With seven judges who all vote independently and anonymously, the COTY process is designed to be as fair as possible. Much to the chagrin of internet trolls, no brown bags of cash are delivered by car companies, no advertising revenue is contingent on the verdict and there’s absolutely zero ‘pay to play’ aspect to being invited to COTY. Integrity is taken seriously. Holden, which hosted us this year at its Lang Lang proving ground, didn’t even merit a toe onto the longlist.
No process is perfect but Wheels Car of the Year is both exhaustive and transparent. We’re open to any suggestions on ways to improve the exercise and this year we’re publishing not only the scores we’ve awarded each car but also the objective testing data and judge’s scorecards.
Unlike most other wards, which aim to maximise potential advertising revenue by issuing a myriad of prizes across a dizzying array of categories, Wheels is old school. There’s only one Wheels COTY prize and all but one manufacturer will go home disappointed from the Australian Motoring Awards. Does that hurt us commercially? Probably. Does it mean you get the best and fairest award in Australian motoring? Most definitely.
And that’s something you should certainly care about.