European awards, Japanese cars and Fiat are the winners!

•May 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The European Car of The Year Award is not eagerly anticipated like the Oscars, at least not by the general public.  I am sure there are executives in plush offices dotted around the European Union who are simply gushing at the opportunity to be the CEO of the company that creates the next model that wins this prestigious award.  Indeed, perhaps even the lowly assembly workers would take a certain amount of pride in the fact that all of their hard work had not gone unnoticed, even if their fellow countrymen do not go running off to the nearest bookmakers to have a punt on the new Renault Smiley’s success – or whatever their next model will be called.

The truth is, the two competitions have more in common that you might initially have thought.  The Oscars are awarded by a self congratulatory, back slapping bunch of honorary members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who probably care more about popularity than any real technical ability shown by the nominees.  The European Car of The Year is awarded by a self congratulatory, back slapping bunch of random European motor hacks who probably care more about who bought the last round, than any real technical ability shown by the nominees.

Before we take an in depth look at what is so terribly wrong with these awards, you should  at least be aware of what criteria these journalists have to make their nominations on:
•    Design
•    Comfort
•    Safety
•    Economy
•    Handling
•    Performance
•    Functionality
•    Environmental requirements
•    Driver satisfaction
•    Price
It is quite a list, I will grant you, but as Jeremy Clarkson writing in his column in The Times, sagely notes, the Swedes do not want the same thing from a car as the Greeks.  This might explain the rationale of why such cars as the NSU ro-80 has won the competition.  Whilst certainly an innovative car, I do feel that perhaps apart from comfort, they kind of missed the point.  Fiat are the lucky world champion in this sport with a lofty nine titles, and in 1976, the Simca 1307-1308 pipped the new BMW 3 series to the title.  It should be noted that not once in the history of the awards, which began in 1964, has either Mercedes nor BMW won this coveted title.  Ironically, Toyota and Nissan have, despite not being European cars.

And therein lies the whole problem with The European Car of The Year Awards.  Despite the best will in the world, getting seven motor journalists to sit down together in a pub in Hackney, and getting them to agree on what constitutes Europe’s best car is like watching seven sumo wrestlers fighting over the last prawn tempura.

At the end of the day, the winning Fiat gets to place a little black logo on the advertisements it probably wouldn’t have ran if Renault had won, and everyone else who has any interest in cars at all ends up wondering why on earth anyone in their right mind could have ever voted the Nissan Micra, European Car of The Year?