Picture: PORSCHE
Picture: PORSCHE

Last Tuesday, at a gala dinner event in Johannesburg, the Wesbank/SAGMJ (South African Guild of Motoring Journalists) Car of the Year competition crowned the Porsche Panamera as the winner of the 2018 competition, beating nine other vehicles which, in their own right, are sterling cars.

Following the announcement, there has been some furore from many corners of the automotive industry and the public at large regarding this year’s winner, with many purporting that the result is not representative of the market as few people can afford the winning vehicle.

Thus, I decided to outline aspects that we use to arrive at the overall result and the objective thereof, to hopefully cast some light on the judging process itself.

The competition is a thorough, methodologically judged process that follows a number of parameters to judge each model by scoring each aspect with a number ranging from 1 and 10 and all digitally linked to a server via a tablet, which each of the 26 judges has in their possession over the two-day testing period to score each vehicle accordingly, using the following parameters.

These include exterior design, styling, aesthetics, packaging, interior environment, use of materials, appearance, ambience, interior practicality, layout, space, ergonomics, comfort, technology, level of standard equipment, ease of operation, connectivity, engine performance, refinement, charisma, consumption, gearbox/transmission, level of responsiveness, refinement, ease of operation, engineering integrity and build quality, wind-, road-and engine noise levels, presence of rattles, fit and finish, ride quality, refinement, suspension stiffness/ smoothness, steering and handling, refinement, handling balance, affordability, cost per kilometre, future resale value, value for money service/motorplan, warranty, maintenance costs, as well as overall excellence.

The results are then collated and audited by an independent auditor and the winner is publicly revealed at an event attended by industry members, including manufacturers and motoring journalists.

The winning vehicle must epitomise innovation and ingenuity in marketing and engineering in its class; represent a brave step forward in motoring, setting new benchmarks in its market segment; and must evoke automotive passion and excitement to make it a truly outstanding car both in its class and in the whole market, so that it is worthy of the ultimate accolade.

This is how the competition has been judged for the past 32 years and which the jury has been abiding by ever since to arrive at the result.

Interestingly, in its third instalment the competition yielded one of the most expensive winners in the history of the competition, the BMW 735i, and, in 2015, the Volvo XC90 was the first model in the history of the competition to breach the R1m mark — and it was universally accepted. The Panamera, for most part, is priced in the same ballpark as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

That said, however, I believe the format of the competition has reached a point where it needs to be diversified by having categories as the number of worthy cars in their respective segments is something that is apparent.

This year’s competition, in fact, has seen the top four cars being separated by a mere 5% — a barometer of how close the competition has been and how an outright winner is something that is perhaps not as simple to judge anymore, at least that’s my personal experience.

As such the competition need not lose its objective, but rather cast the award net much wider to include entry-level cars; bakkies; crossovers/SUVs and high-end cars respectively, essentially covering a wider cross-section of what is available in the South African vehicle market.

This should be done, of course, without compromising that all important objective of rewarding automotive excellence, which remains at the cornerstone of the competition.

Twitter: @LeratoMatebese