10 reasons car buyers should take note of Philippine car scribes’ test festBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There are car reviews, and there are car awards. But only one can claim the right to call itself the Car Awards Group Inc., because only Cagi can claim to bring under its wing motoring journalists from print, TV/radio and online media to subject the latest cars from all automotive manufacturers to a series of technical tests, then come up with a unified, objective and validated verdict.
This is what Cagi president Ferman Lao espouses, as he shares with Inquirer Motoring a rundown of the 10 reasons car buyers should take Car of the Year-Philippines’ (COTY-P) pronouncements seriously.
Inquirer Motoring: How can a group of Filipino motoring journalists establish the credibility that other countries’ Car of the Year have earned? How will car buyers be assured that COTY-P takes consumers’ interest above all others?
Ferman Lao: We use the same test units that the car manufacturers lend out to the motoring journalists when they are launched or when a particular motoring media outlet needs a vehicle to evaluate. It’s no different than the car that is available to the general public for purchase. There is no other interest that should be on top of the list of a Car of the Year award other than the consumers’ interest in mind. We’ve tried to be as relevant as possible to the car-buying public, which is why we’ve divided the vehicles into their respective categories: function, size and price.
IM: What is the assurance that COTY-P results are not influenced by automakers?
FL:The comments from the non-winning participants each year. The members and testers come from so many media outlets, with each having his/her own reader base. If they could be easily influenced in favor of a particular manufacturer, I’m sure they will quickly lose their credibility and respect of their readers. The integrity of our journalists is the assurance.
IM: Can you cite examples that COTY-P results in the past have actually benefited Filipino buyers?
FL: The best example would have to be last year’s COTY, the Hyundai Elantra. It is an excellent car, and if you ask any Elantra owner today, you’d be hard pressed to find an unhappy Elantra owner. On the other side of the coin, Ms. Fe Agudo, president of Hari [Hyundai Asia Resources Inc.], the official distributor of Hyundai vehicles here in the Philippines, shared with us sometime ago that the booking orders from their dealers increased 40 percent after they won in the Car of the Year Awards 2011-2012 earlier this year. The Elantra also won COTY in three other regions across the globe. That, I believe, is a testament as to how good the Elantra is, how credible our COTY awards are and how much our COTY testing criteria have improved over years. Interestingly, while we only announced it earlier this year at the Manila International Auto Show during the awards night, we already had the results prior to any of the other regions’ announcement of their choices.
IM: The COTY-P score sheet evaluates the following characteristics of the subject vehicles: Interior, Exterior, Comfort and Drive. How was this formulated to bring out the objectivity in subjective observations? Of course, this is only half of the overall basis of evaluation. What improvements were made in this aspect since 2004?
FL: The criteria are based on what any potential vehicle owner or buyer would or should ask themselves. Subjective aspects like appeal, the perception of the occupant of the different areas and characteristics of a certain vehicle are rated by our testers according to their own preferences and perception of what makes for a good car, given the experiences, expertise and personal preferences of our testers. The results are consistent—if a car or a certain aspect of a car is better than its competitors, it will consistently be rated high by each tester.
70 for the 9th year
IM: Do you think that the 70 newly tested cars have pretty much covered everything in the market for new buyers for this year? How about manufacturers/importers who have no test units to offer?
FL:The COTY test criteria are very specific in that the only cars that are eligible each year are vehicles that are all new, or have new engines, transmission variants or suspension changes. These cover the newly introduced vehicles or the ones that receive significant changes that the motoring public should know about. Any particular make that doesn’t have a test unit available this year is still going to be eligible for next year. That should be more than ample time for them to have a unit available.
The numbers game
IM: There is strength in numbers, so they say. How many motoring scribes are active and are evaluating in COTY-P? How many are staking their names and repute behind the results?
IM: On any given test date about 35 percent of the 70 members are present.
IM: In your own evaluation of Coty-P, what are the strengths, and possible areas of improvement of the organization?
FL: The strength, of course, comes from the fact that with members coming from so many publications, the results have more bearing than an award given by any single media outfit, as this is the collective decision of many journalists, each with his/her own perception of what is a better car. We welcome all comments and opinions from everyone and take heed of each one of them, positive or otherwise. Negative comments are taken as an area for improvement while positive comments are taken as challenges as to how we can further improve upon it.
IM: Part of buying a car is maintaining it during ownership. Does Coty-P take this into account in its evaluation of the cars?
FL: At the moment, no. We are looking into the possibility of how maintenance and operational costs of vehicles can, or should, be included in the criteria for judging.
IM: Can you give readers a brief rundown on how the group conducts technical evaluation? What are the general procedures? How many participate at any given time? What tools/instruments are being used, and are these standard with what are being used by COTY organizations in other countries?
FL: The technical test is a test of absolute performance. We do instrumented testing on acceleration to 100 kph, braking from 100 kph and handling with the use of a Racelogic VBox that’s on loan from SpeedLab. The technical team is primarily composed of our members who have racing experience.
IM: How is COTY-P different from other car awards in the Philippines, or anywhere in the world, for that matter? During its first year in 2004, COTY-P corresponded with the people behind the Engine of the Year, and the Car of the Year in the United States, Europe and in some parts of the world. Are there still communications from fellow motoring journalists in other countries?
FL: Since that time we’ve also been in touch with the organizers of COTY Thailand and Malaysia, we plan to get in touch with counterparts in other countries as well.
Lao said any reader who wants to know more about the Car of the Year-Philippines can get in touch with Cagi via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or search for the group’s Facebook page. “We always welcome all relevant comments, questions and opinions from everyone.”
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