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Peugeot e-208
Peugeot e-208, courtesy of Peugeot.


The European Car Of The Year Election Was An Embarrassment

The European Car of the Year is not the “Best Buy” advice of a consumer organization. It does not put a sticker on Product X in category Y in price class Z. It does not help customers to choose between the myriad offerings on the market by positioning something as the cheapest, coolest, easiest, safest, healthiest, or greenest product they can buy.

The European Car of the Year is not the “Best Buy” advice of a consumer organization. It does not put a sticker on Product X in category Y in price class Z. It does not help customers to choose between the myriad offerings on the market by positioning something as the cheapest, coolest, easiest, safest, healthiest, or greenest product they can buy.

The “car of the year” (COTY) means choosing the best new product the auto industry made. In the times of the T-Ford, one would not expect a horse-drawn buggy to be on the list. So, why are most of the candidates for this year’s COTY built with a technology as outdated as the horse and buggy was in those days? (The outdated technology is of course the internal combustion engine.)

Of the 35 candidates entering the first sifting round, only 6 had a modern (fully battery electric) powertrain. Two others were available in a choice of old and new, and the rest of the candidates will be essentially discarded in 5 years. It is questionable whether cars with an outdated powertrain should be among the first collection of candidates. They should definitely not be among the nominees.

Last year, a remake of a 1960s car with the latest version of this outdated technology came within a tiebreak of the winning vehicle, the fully electric Jaguar I-PACE. This is a disgrace for the jury, as is not selecting 4 of the 6 modern cars this year to be a 2020 nominee, or the shortsightedness of not selecting the electric versions of the multi-powertrain models (suggesting that both powertrains have the same value and future prospects).

We are still riding horses, rowing, and sailing boats. We even have large competitions to determine the best sailors, rowers, and horseback riders. For transport, we use other more modern methods. Fossil fuel automobiles will not go away — they will join the ranks of horses, rowboats, and sailing yachts.

Peugeot e-208

Peugeot e-208, courtesy Peugeot.

The nominees for this year’s COTY should have been chosen from the 6 fully electric autos and the 2 electric versions of the multi-powertrain models:

  • Audi e-tron
  • Kia Soul EV
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC
  • Opel Corsa-e (electric version of multi-powertrain model)
  • Peugeot e-208 (electric version of multi-powertrain model)
  • Porsche Taycan
  • Renault Zoe
  • Tesla Model 3

That are 8 candidates to select the 7 nominees from that can go to the finals. They all have a bright future and can expect rising sales and many years of serving happy drivers.

In contrast, these are the 7 that the COTY jury selected for the finals, and the ranking the obtained:

  1. Peugeot 208
  2. Tesla Model 3
  3. Porsche Taycan
  4. Renault Clio
  5. Ford Puma
  6. Toyota Corolla
  7. BMW 1 Series

What was the jury thinking? There is no info on the selection of the seven nominees for the finals. When voting in the final round, each jury member can distribute 25 points across the nominees. A maximum of 10 points is allowed for only one nominee. For each car, they give a motivation for the score — why 10 or 0 or something in between. With 60 jurors and 7 cars, there are 420 motivations to read. These comments are enlightening.

Horst Bauer, Austria: Regarding the Jaguar I-PACE, he said it was not ready for prime time. Tesla Model 3 — brakes overheat when used on a racetrack, plus Horst is unable to learn to use the touchscreen. He thought last year’s remake of the Alpine A110 brought true emotion — this is what a car should be. This year his choice was the Ford Puma, another niche product.

Stéphane Lémeret, Belgian: Last year gave 10 points for the remade Alpine, no points for the Jaguar I-PACE (so much less than a Tesla). This year he gave zero points to the Tesla Model 3. It is too difficult to learn to use voice commands or the controls on the steering wheel, according to Lémeret. The touchscreen is too hard to use on rocky Belgian streets. The Belgian streets have too many potholes for a car like the Model 3. As a good neighbor, most of his points were used for the two French models.

Xavier Pérez, Spain: The Porsche Taycan is the best car. It’s too expensive for poor people, though, so 0 points. The Model 3 lacks a passion for cars, handling not good enough, terrible TV screen is used as dashboard — also 0 points. Last year, lack of charging was not the reason to give only 1 point to the Jaguar I-PACE, it was the inferior interior.

After reading dozens of comments, there were a few recurring complaints about the electric cars. The Taycan was too expensive, the Model 3 interface was too hard to learn, the Model 3 was not as good as the Taycan, and it had too much power for the chassis and brakes to handle.

While other critical comments about the cars were often well balanced and in line with the points the juror awarded, the comments for the electric cars were often a bit of “Very good, but zero points because ….” I think they were too alien for the jurors to appreciate, like the Ford Model T was for those still living with a horse and buggy for their daily driver.

Nostalgia is often a bigger driver than the new design or the best application of coming technologies. It is often more important for jurors than modelling the future of mobility.

If the Peugeot e-208 had been the winner, I would not have uttered a complaint about the podium. I would have thought it balanced and well deserved. Even with an all-electric group of nominees, these three on the podium, in whatever order, would be a great COTY decision.

With the fossil fuel Peugeot 208 on the podium, and the voting for the electric cars so unbalanced, though, it raises the question: what is wrong with these people?

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Written By

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car. I added some Fastned, because driving without charging is no fun.


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