Why MotorTrend car or truck of the year isn’t

It’s that time of the year again, when MotorTrend unveils their highly regarded car or truck of the year awards for all to see.  Alleged extreme tests are applied to the candidates for the year’s trophy, and they are stacked up against six criteria established in 2014.  Car companies will proudly laud the trophy as an accomplishment, and tout is as a victory over their competitors in that segment.

But here’s the problem: it isn’t.  All the MotorTrend award is that you’ve won over a select few other competitors in your segment.  In some cases a vehicle, like the 2014 Ram 1500, have won the award because there were no other entries that met their criteria.  What then, exactly, is needed for a car to be considered eligible?  A vehicle must be all new, or have seen a significant change to design or drivetrain, within the last 12 months.  Any vehicle which has been on sale for more than five years is also ineligible for the result.  So, what does that mean?

The award has the wrong name

As it stands, the MotorTrend award is for the car, truck or SUV of the year.  It should be, in fact, the NEW car, truck or SUV of the year.  The current name of the award implies the recipient is the best vehicle available, within that market segment, for the model year of the award.  Car manufacturers will then tout the award as such, claiming to be better than the competition, who were never actually considered for the award, for that model year.  If MotoTrend continues with the award in this name, it needs to change their program.  This isn’t likely, though.  Editor in chief at MotorTrend, Ed Loh, once told me it is “their contest, their rules”.  How very kindergarten.

It should include all models in the market segment

If this is truly the car, truck or SUV of the year, then all models on offer for that model year should be eligible for the award.  Many of the top rated and top selling vehicles are excluded because of the length of the model run, or they are simply unchanged from the year before.  By creating these criteria without properly naming the award, MotorTrend has allowed companies to artificially label their vehicles as best in that segment.  It’s a false statement, pure and simple.

It doesn’t include reliability or initial quality issues

It’s interesting that a best car award has nothing to do with how well it’s build, or how well it has stood up compared to its competitors.  Most readers or new car drivers will presume the car, truck or SUV of the year achieves better than all it’s competitors in all categories.  Since this isn’t a best “new” award, as it should be, reliability and recall information for existing models should be a weighing factor in the contest.  Even brand new models, with less than 12 months of life, can be rife with recalls.  Sadly, it seems the folks at MotorTrend are willing to turn a blind eye to potential future impact on consumers.  This is despite the fact that their website contains a rather exhaustive database of cost-of-ownership stats for nearly every vehicle out there.

What should it be?

Really, this award needs to be renamed, or it needs to be issued with an asterisk.  Winning companies need to be more honest and open, adding that the MotorTrend award is only valid against new for that year models, and not the whole segment.  It should also qualify the award is based on a few days of in car testing.  No consideration is given to reliability or recall issues reported over the course of the last 12 months.

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