SA Car of the Year controversy: Readers respond

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 CAR OF THE YEAR: The Macan SUV won the 2015 Car of the Year, the third Porsche to grab the SA title in as many years. Image: Porsche / ~ Newspress

Cape Town - On Thursday, Wheels24 interviewed Bernard Hellberg Jr, chairman of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists. He explained how the competition works and shared his views on the SA Car of the Year (CoTY) controversy.

Hellberg also announced possible changes to the voting criteria ahead of the 2016 competition, the finalists of which will be announced towards the end of 2015.


Hellberg said: “We’re not trying to look for the cheapest car, or the best car for the member of the public to buy. We’re trying to find, at that point in time, the car that best represents the pinnacle of motoring excellence. It includes various things such as technology, engineering, aspects of generally pushing the envelope of motoring.

“It’s not about saying to the public – 'You need to buy this car'. It’s about saying, if you want to see where technology is going, where the best technology is at this moment, in this year, look at this car as an example.

Reader response: 'SA Car of the Year misses the point'


We asked readers what they thought of the SA Car of the Year competition and a News24 poll garnered more than 7900 votes

Poll results: 7966 votes

Car of the Year is a great way to show the best local models - 950 votes
One of the motoring highlights of the year - 477 votes
Not a reflection of public opinion - 3019 votes
Pointless without categories - 3520 votes

By far, most readers (3520) called for the addition of categories (best budget car, best hot hatch etc.) within the competition and more than 3000 felt the results did not reflect public opinion.


Wheels24’s JANINE VAN DER POST, an SAGMJ member and former CoTy judge, says the Car of the Year competition is misunderstood: “The SA Car of the Year is a great competition and I think it showcases the best cars in the local market.

"I do think some of the voting criteria should be changed. “With that being said, the competition could be become pointless because judges would never be able to make everyone happy. If a VW Polo Vivo wins, some could argue 'the Ford Fiesta should have won' etc. Perhaps the inclusion of categories is the solution."

The problem is, says Van der Post, most South Africans can’t afford a new car: “If we focus on affordability, considering South Africa’s economic situation, we’d end up choosing the cheapest, entry-level car at the time of voting and even that would be out of reach for most drivers.”

"The competition is not based on what’s the BEST car to buy in SA, it’s about the best car in the market at the time. If the criteria is value for money in its segment, most would be surprised to know that Porsche sells more than a hundred units each month in SA."

Read: SA Car of the Year controversy explained


Steven Bresler: "The competition should have two tiers. The first will be the cars around R300k and the second for cars around the R600k mark. The cars should be judged on build quality, design, value for money and technology. Anyway, who would want to be a judge now? Back in the day there were only a few models of each make to choose from. Now it is mind-boggling." 

Warren van Wyk: “It's like a baby-judging competition; every parent is convinced their kid is the cutest. Of course it's going to be surrounded by controversy, especially if the winner isn't a popular choice.”

Henning Pantke: “So we will have ‘public perception’, which means VW Polo Vivo will win every year. Second place will be a Toyota Minibus. What is controversial about a brand which is renowned for making some of the greatest cars winning Car of the Year? Controversy would be if the Chery QQ wins the award.”

Denver said: “Take the top 10 best-selling cars of the year and perform the CoTY road test. Then we will be happy. Sorry but who in SA can afford a new Porsche, definitely not me. The CoTY is about cars that only Ministers can afford.”

Marius Carstens: “If this is the lame explanation that the Guild is using then we might as well have only Porche, Bentley and Rolls Royce competing.”

Hamish Leslie Drake: “If you are going to base your decision purely on what the car has/does, the way CoTY does, then you will always end up with an expensive car as the winner. You cannot compare a 300k car to a R1 million car, without there being a value for money part to it. CoTY at the moment is a joke.”

“So, while first world countries, who actually design and manufacture cars in their own backyard, have cars like the Golf, C-Class, etc. We as a third-world country say Porsche? Is this an attempt to tell parliament that it's OK to drive a million-rand car? SA CoTY should wake up!”

Barrie Barnardt: “Here's the thing - the aspiring Porsche (whatever) owner does not and will not rely on the subjective reasoning of a bunch of motoring scribes serving on an arbitrary ‘panel’. They will purchase said vehicle purely on merit. The Audi/BMW/Mercedes clan may however arguably be swayed by the sentiments of such a panel. As for the rest, an evaluation of this sort may well be a useful tool in directing a possible purchase.”

OrdinaryCarMan said: “A small car in the R100 000 - R200 000 segment has a lot more competition than a Porsche. To excel against a lot of competition with a small budget is extremely difficult. When competing with this limited budget, the smallest improvements are a huge achievement and, from our perspective, the judges do not seem to have taken this into account.”

What do you think of the SA Car of the Year awards? Do you think the competition could be improved? Email us  and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24


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