Car of the year awards are like arseholes - almost everyone has one. Carsales - the grand high Poobah of new and used car classifieds here in Australia - has just announced its cars of the year. Apparently they were also having a completely dissociative psychotic break - at the time.
Car of the year awards are a joke - except of course if you purchase a car based on the implied recommendation. Then the joke’s on you.
I thought Wheels magazine got to the bottom of the car of the year barrel when it awarded that appalling BMW i3 as its car of the year almost 12 months ago.
Of course except for the outrageous price, the categoric irrelevance, the poor cruising range and the fact that it’s a four-star shitbox on safety ... aside from that: Good call, Wheels.
But now Carsales has proved that there is a whole universe of poor car of the year choices available to any judging panel diligent enough to scrape its way through the bottom of the barrel, and see just how deep the bad choice 'car of the year' rabbit hole really goes.
And the Carsales winner is...
The winner of the Carsales car of the year is … the Tesla Model S. As irrelevant cars of the year go … it seems like a decent choice. That’s actually a very good award - Irrelevant Car of the Year - I’d put on a tux to attend that. The Tesla Model S is certainly innovative, it’s different, allegedly green … and Elon Musk - the real world’s Tony Stark - is behind it. So that’s kinda cool. But it is irrelevant at a cost of between $100,000 and $200,000 Australian dollars. And wouldn’t you rather drive a BMW M3? I know I would - and I’ve driven the Model S. It’s pretty impressive to drive - but that's just not enough.
Here’s the reason you can’t give that Tesla a car of the year award, and retain your self-respect: it’s an unreliable shitbox. Consumer reports in the USA - a hugely respected independent advocacy agency - came away, like me, very impressed with driving the Model S. They gave it a coveted ‘Top Pick’ award. But when it came actually to owning one, the Model S dropped the ball badly. Here’s the thing, buying the right car, owning the right car, is more than just how it drives. Most motoring journalists don’t get that.
In the recent Consumer Reports reliability survey, which interviewed 740,000 new car owners in North America, 1400 Tesla Model S owners complained about defects with the car’s charging system, and the centre console, plus the doors and windows. The vehicle’s electric drive system is also - according to actual Tesla owners - apparently glitchy, and the build quality is second-rate with many owners reporting an overload of rattles, squeaks and even leaking sunroofs - and it has to be said: water and electricity don’t mix. It’s a bad look. Consumer Reports grabbed the Top Pick award for Tesla and put it in the shredder as a consequence.
Greg Roebuck - the ‘Tony Stark’ of Carsales - said, of the Model S (quote):
“It’s right up there with the best of the conventional vehicles eligible for judging in 2015.”
- Carsales' Greg Roebuck
Actually, Greg, point of order: it can’t be just right up there. It has to be better, in order to win. Just saying. (You might want to consult a higher class of communications professional before making public statements, in future.) Mr Roebuck also said the judges liked the - quote - quality construction. Finger on the pulse there, too, Iron Man.
One of these assessments of the Tesla is clearly wrong. They are mutually exclusive. If I had to bet the farm, I’d be betting Consumer Reports has taken the more accurate, relevant position - by several orders of magnitude. I’m presuming the Carsales awards are supposed to be awards for purported excellence, not for nice ideas with delusions of adequacy on the execution front.
Read my full report on the Consumer Reports top 20 lemon cars named and shamed >>
Best sub-$100k presitge car?
Carsales’ team of crack judges also had the collective counter-intuitive genius to award the Mercedes-Benz C-Class best prestige car under $100,000. I say ‘counter-intuitive’ because the C-Class just earned itself a place in the Consumer Reports’ 20 least reliable cars listing - thanks to its owner-identified propensity for doing poopy in its own power steering system (which you should never do in public if you’re a prestige car) as well as for routinely stalling at idle and suffering catastrophic failure of the infotainment system and display screen.
This is according to actual C-Class owners. The Clark Kent of Carsales - Greg Roebuck - says (quote):
“Driving the C 250 is a pleasure.” - Greg Roebuck
(And I guess if you’re driving it and the power steering system manages not to do, do-do in its own power steering system’s underpants, then it probably is a pleasure.)
In fact, Mercedes-Benz is right down there with the least reliable brands, according to Consumer Reports’ latest survey. Benz is worse for reliability even than Ford or Chevrolet, but just better than Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Fiat. There’s a marketing opportunity. A real USP: More reliable than Fiat. Here again are two mutually exclusive consumer propositions. Mercedes-Benz cannot be both an unreliable shitbox brand and a smart consumer choice. So, well done, Carsales. I would love to know how many Mercedes-Benz-funded overseas trips your journalists have enjoyed this year. Just for balance, and compliance with the Code of Ethics. Mercedes-Benz - engineered (to do poopy in public) like no other car. And a Carsales car of the year winner. Twice (the CLS got one as well.)
Best sub-$30k family car?
Carsales best family car under $30,000 - the Volkswagen Golf. (Of-frigging-course.) Presumably, this relates to the petrol ones only - I mean, the diesel ones are, obviously, temporarily unavailable.
If you've been dead from the neck up since September 20, read my exclusive report on how Volkswagen betrayed the world >>
In my view it would be perhaps too easy to criticise the Carsales judging team here - right now it’s only six weeks since the Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ scandal broke, a (literally) breathtaking story of corporate malfeasance, with global reach, flagrant disregard for legislation, and the truly sickening decision to prioritise profit over your health. That’s what Volkswagen did.
(I wonder if there’s a caveat about egregious corporate conduct disqualifying a manufacturer from a Carsales car of the year award? Probably not.)
The Volkswagen Golf is straight from central casting inside this reprehensible scandal. So why not give it a car of the year award? It’s a brave, contrarian, counter-intuitive choice. Either that, or psychotically out of touch with world events. You choose.
Still, this is just a cut and paste of the same Carsales award in 2014, when the Golf again took the award despite the DSG fiasco that involved a global corporate pants down recall, back in November 2013. Carsales’s Yoda - Greg Roebuck - says (quote):
“Volkswagen may have its issues right now, but the Golf remains a benchmark. Pure and simple.”
- Greg Roebuck
Tell that to the owners, Greg. And, whatever you’re smoking … please send me some. I certainly need to dissociate from time to time. ‘May have its issues’? That’s like saying Adolf Hitler could have acted nicer from time to time, or describing a nuclear first strike as ‘harsh’ or ‘undiplomatic’. If you want to be a journalist, or speak as if you are one, in my view you have to tell it like it is. ‘May have its issues is like layering icing sugar on dogshit - no matter how much you lay on, the resulting birthday cake will ultimately disappoint.
Best first car?
The crack Carsales judges also saw fit metaphorically (at least, I hope it was metaphorically) to provide fellatio services this year to Skoda, another filthy, polluting Volkswagen Group shitbox brand.
The Fabia was handed the Best First Car award. That brilliant seven-speed DSG. That cutting edge five-speed manual. Five - count them. That outstanding three-year warranty. That space-saver spare - fun for a young driver in the wet on the freeway at night, I’m sure. That mandatory premium unleaded petrol, a solid economic proposition for a young driver right there. That $950 GPS option.
Well done. Another rock-solid choice, when you think about the priorities affecting young drivers today.
Best sub-$100k performance car?
The Carsales Best performance car under $100,000 - the Ford Fiesta ST Ecoboost. Thought experiment time: Let’s say you hand me $99,999 and you say: go off, buy yourself a performance car and bring me back the change. I’m getting a cab, going straight to the Ford dealer, and coming back with a Fiesta ST and I’m handing you back $74,000, right? Seems plausible.
I mean, no way am I buying one of those performance cars for pussies, like a WRX STI, or a RenaultSport Megane RS 275 Trophy, or an MX-5 2.0 Roadster GT, or a Lotus Elise, or an HSV GTS, or even a BMW M235i.
Have that Fiesta wrapped and sent to my room. And iron my Collette Dinnigan dress while you’re up there.
Look me in the eye and tell me, if you had $100k to spend on a performance car, this is the car you'd buy. Not saying it's not a good drive.
Best 'city' car?
The Carsales ‘best city car’ - Mazda CX-3. Even though it’s an SUV and not, strictly speaking, a car. Go figure. What’s a bit of semantic promiscuity between friends? Because nothing says ‘city-car’ quite like as loud and proud as a trumped-up Mazda2 on offer at a - let’s generalise - $10,000 more than an equivalent Mazda2. Nothing says ‘city car’ as loud and proud as that … except an actual city car. Like a Mazda2. For $10,000 less. Obviously.
My simple problem with the CX-3 winning this award is: It's not a car. And, compared with a car, it's bad value.
So in summary, an unreliable, irrelevant and hideously expensive, rattly, squeaky and leaky coppertop Tesla is the big winner (which is also double-whammied as the Carsales green car of the year), followed by minor placegetters comprising two Benzes (the unreliable of the big three German brand), two gongs for the disgraced Volkswagen Group (I guess forgiveness is divine), a couple of irrelevant Porsches, the Ford Ranger (but no analogous gong for its identical twin, the BT-50 - please explain) - for me they’re the real highlights of the crack-smoking Carsales car of the year awards. Just brilliant. Made my day.
Exactly half of the Carsales cars of the year are in my view a joke. Drill down into it, read between the lines, and you see that they highlight judging priorities that are monumentally out of touch with real new car buyers. In my opinion it’s undignified when motoring journalists provide a blow job on demand service to the car industry. It’s undignified in private - copping the business class flights, staying in the five-star hotels, jet-setting around the world and sucking generally on the car industry’s teat, pretending to be a reporter. It’s undignified in private, but in public, it’s a disgrace.
The motoring media in Australia has become become a de facto division of various car companies’ PR departments. It’s nothing more than a systematic propaganda delivery apparatus. And the real losers here are the audience. That’s you: The readers, the listeners and the viewers, who on good faith believe these kinds of awards and reports generally. The awards aren't even for you; they're a suck to the industry, which uses them for marketing. It’s even worse if you spend your hard-earned cash on what is ultimately the wrong vehicle because of this corrupt symbiotic oligopoly.
Do not use awards like these to help you choose a car. At the very best, they can't hurt - but they won't help. And, at worst, they will lead you down entirely the wrong path.