The Jeep Avenger electric SUV was named the European Car Of The Year at the Brussels auto show this week. According to Autocar, a panel of 57 leading motoring journalists from 23 countries cast votes for this year’s winner and the Jeep Avenger won with a total of 328 points. Second place went to the Volkswagen ID. Buzz with 241 points, while the Nissan Ariya came in third in the voting with 211 points. The Kia Niro finished fourth with 200 points followed by the Renault Austral with 163 points. Rounding out the list of seven finalists were the Peugeot 408 with 149 points and the Subaru Solterra/Toyota bZ4X with 133 points.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the European Car of the Year award, which was established in 1964. The first winner was the Rover 2000. [Author’s note: I wanted a Rover 2000 in the worst way because it had a wicked cool ice alert system with a sensor mounted on the front bumper.] The COTY award is supported by nine automotive publications across Europe, including Autocar.
Russian journalists were not welcome this year, leaving the jury pool at 57 compared with 61 in 2020. Every jury member has 25 points to award and may give no more than 10 points to any single car. Each judge must distribute points between at least five cars. Major factors under consideration include technical innovation and value for money.
My colleague Maarten Vinkhuyzen lambasted the COTY process in a recent article, saying “Only three (of the 7 cars considered) can be called modern architecture car technology models. Two models are based on transitional technology, with both a tailpipe version and a battery electric version. The last two are just yesteryear’s technology. This is over a decade after the new technology was demonstrated to be better and even after the regulators and many OEMs themselves declared the fossil fuel burners a technology of the past, a technology that should be abandoned as fast as possible.
“Any model with a tailpipe should be disqualified for using yesterday’s technology. That would remove the Peugeot 408 and Renault Austral from the list. The Jeep Avenger and Kia Niro should only be judged on the BEV versions of the models. Using an old shared platform is not really innovative technology, it is upgraded old technology to bridge the time needed to develop modern technology.”
Maarten is a self-described “grumpy old man” who asked me to write this story because he is in Brussels at the moment looking for other items to critique among this year’s offerings. Since I am also a member of the same fraternity, I was elected and I hope I have done a good job of conveying his slightly muted outrage at the ridiculousness of the COTY selection process.
That being said, I find the Jeep Avenger to be an electric car that is faithful to the Jeep tradition. It is an attractive vehicle, especially in the yellow livery Stellantis has chosen for the car and I think it could be hugely popular in the US. The parent company, for reasons of its own, has elected not to offer it in the US, no doubt because it is not 24 feet long and doesn’t weigh 9000 pounds. That’s a shame because if I were looking for an electric SUV, I would definitely consider the Jeep Avenger — but only in yellow!
ID. Buzz GTX Coming In 2023
In other electric car news from Europe today, Kai Gruenitz, head of research and development for the Volkswagen Brand, spoke to the assembled multitude of automotive journalists. Autocar was on hand and reports that he gave more details on how the firm will expand the ID. Buzz range beyond the initial five-seat MPV and Cargo van.
“The GTX will be a cool high performance version, with 250 kW (335) bhp], a dedicated interior, new exterior colors, and some additional features,” he said. It will use the dual motor four wheel drive system shared with other versions of the Volkswagen ID range of EVs, including the 2023 Volkswagen ID 7 saloon. He said the company is also considering launching a non-GTX 4-wheel drive version of the ID. Buzz.
Gruenitz also said the long wheelbase version of the ID. Buzz coming this summer will offering greater seating flexibility than the 5-passenger model that is based on the commercial van. That model has only a standard 3-person bench across the back that splits 60/40 and can’t be removed. The long wheelbase version will be 25 cm longer than the standard car and feature seven seats. “It will have three rows and seven seats, and you can pull them all out of the back,” said Gruenitz. “It will also have captain chairs that turn around.”
When asked for an update on the development of the California version, Gruenitz said: “There will be a camper version. The first concept is being worked on now. It’s interesting what’s possible and what would be cool and usable.” According to Autocar, the camper is expected sometime in 2025.
In a press release this week, Volkswagen extolled the virtues of the ID. Buzz, which saw 10,800 units built in 2022. “Our ID. Buzz created a real BUZZ in 2022 — not just here, but all over the world,” said Lars Krause of Volkswagen’s commercial vehicles division. “We are very happy with the launch of our first all-electric Bulli from Hannover. Now, our task is to further ramp up production of all models and to deliver the vehicles to our customers and fans. In the last few months, we’ve already succeeded in doing this and we’ve been able since September to increase deliveries to customers significantly. In November and December, we sent out 30 per cent more vehicles than in the same period last year.”
The ID. Buzz helped lift sales for the commercial vehicles division in Germany at a time when the overall market for new vehicles in the country was suffering a decline in sales. “The sales team in Germany led by Mathias Busse did everything right last year! In conjunction with the dealers and in close cooperation with our production teams, we achieved a very good result in terms of units delivered and simultaneously set a new record in terms of sales performance,” Krause said.
“The ID.Buzz is long awaited by many fans of the old hippie bus. It is a nostalgic product that offers good value for money.” Maarten Vinkhuyzen says. On that basis alone, it deserves to thrive.
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