The brilliant Porsche Macan was named as the South African car of the year by the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) last night.
There’s a part of me that agrees completely with their assessment, but a part of me can’t help but wonder how relevant this news is to the average man on the street.
I adore the Macan, in fact, I named it as one of my two favourite cars of 2014, the other being the Renault Duster, which, for the record, was also a finalist in this competition. In the end I named the Duster my favourite car of the year, purely because it offered off-road ability, a frugal diesel engine, space for four people and a host of comfort and convenience features at a price other manufacturers simply can’t match.
As I stated earlier, I sort of agree with the guild’s choice. That Macan is an epic machine and in the context of the COTY competition’s guidelines, it should have been the winner. There was just nothing else in the field that defined “automotive excellence” as much as it did.
But that’s my problem with the COTY competition. The sole criterion is “automotive excellence,” and I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t good enough. If that’s the only thing they’re looking for, why not just give the title to the Ferrari 458 Speciale. I haven’t driven one myself, but I’ve seen quite a few respected automotive journalists refer to it as the best car they’ve ever driven. Who cares if it costs a few million, just as long as it’s excellent in every single way?
Then again, you can’t hand out the trophy to the car that sold the most, or the car that’s the cheapest to buy. You’d have to give the trophy to the Hilux year after year, or you’d have to hand it over to the Datsun Go, which comes with its own unique set of safety related issues.
It’s a difficult topic, but the guild really should make an effort to actually look at what really matters to the average consumer. Isn’t that why motoring journalists exist in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to supply the car buying public with useful consumer advice?
Currently, the competition means nothing to someone in search of his or her next car. I doubt it even means anything to someone who’s in the market for an expensive SUV, because he/she is going to buy the Porsche regardless. Porsche had no issues selling every Macan they could get their hands on before it won the title, which means COTY is flawed even if you’re just looking at it from a marketing point of view.
The public seems to not care, while those petrolheads who still follow the competition have nothing positive to say about it. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that bribes were involved, but I’d like to put that rumour to rest. I know most of the guys on the jury and to suggest something like that is an insult not only to them, but to Porsche as well.
The guild faces a massive problem, because things need to change or it is going to become another meaningless competition that the public doesn’t understand and therefore doesn’t care about. It’ll be the Oscars of the automotive world. For the record, I think Birdman’s win was an absolute farce. Any jury member with common sense would have given the statue to the guy that made Whiplash…
My suggestion is the introduction of segments. That way it at least means something to the car buying public. A guy with around R300 000 to spend will know exactly which SUV is the best out of the lot, which would go a long way towards making this competition relevant and useful again. You can even use “automotive excellence” to judge these cars, but within the confines of a particular segment.
I have suggested this to a few guild members, but I always get the same answer: “It will take away the prestige of the award”.
That’s utter nonsense. Just because you have categories, it doesn’t mean you can’t still have an overall winner. It could be the 458 Speciale, which would make a few people angry, but at least the public will also know which car is best in whatever segment they’re shopping around in.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only way forward. It’s either that, or you could just buy our sister publication’s best buys edition. Car magazine does it every year and it is by far the best reference for the average person busy buying their next car.
For the record, I’m not a member of the guild. I used to be, but my membership expired a few weeks ago, but not out of protest of what it’s doing at the moment. They kept on sending me mails to pay my membership fee and I just sort of forgot every time. I guess you could say I’m no longer a member due to sheer apathy.
Anyhow, congratulations to Porsche. It’s the guild’s prerogative to set its criteria for its own competition, and with that in mind, there really wasn’t another car that could have walked away with the title.