Chances are you’ve come across the title before. Whether it’s in a television commercial, a newspaper, or on the Internet, you’ve probably seen a vehicle that’s been coined the Canadian Car of the Year.
But have you ever wondered how cars attain such an honour?
An award that is certainly earned, the Car of the Year is determined by members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Over 70 of those journalists were in Niagara-on-the-Lake last week to take part in TestFest, an annual event that allows the media to vote on the best new vehicles available to Canadian consumers.
According to Jacques Deshaies, a director on the Canadian Car of the Year Awards committee, TestFest provides an opportunity for effective evaluation of new vehicles because of the large number of journalists that attend.
“There are car launches during the year for new products, but a manufacturer will only invite a few journalists to the launches,” Deshaies said. “Here at TestFest you have all the (certified) Canadian auto journalists in the same place, on the same week, at the same time.”
At TestFest the vehicles are put through a thorough evaluation system by journalists. AJAC members will compare each vehicle in its class, one-by-one, until every car has been driven.
The same routes — public roads included — must be used for each vehicle in a category, while testing rules are consistent from year to year so consumers can get an accurate portrait of how a car compares to previous models.
The media use a detailed rating form that judges various aspects of a vehicle, from exterior styling right down to braking feel and effectiveness. And these ratings are taken seriously, as accounting firm KPMG tabulates the ballots.
Deshaies says TestFest is a valuable learning ground for the auto manufacturers, who will see what is liked on their vehicles and what isn’t.
“It provides feedback for everybody — the manufacturer and the customer,” he said.
“It’s important for the customer. If you go to shop for a new car, for example, and you have two or three choices, if one of them won the Canadian Car of the Year Award, you will probably consider that there are some reasons that this car is better than others.”
While the top vehicles in each of the 11 categories were announced on Friday, the overall 2012 Canadian Car of the Year has already been voted on by AJAC members and will be unveiled at the Toronto Auto Show in February.