AJAC, or the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, is a group of professional journalists and photographers, established in 1981, that work to bring us news about new cars and utility vehicles available in the Canadian Market. In order to get their findings to the public, the many seasoned journalists of the association work through a variety of media, including: Newspaper and Magazine articles, Radio Broadcasts, Websites, and Television Programs. The association is vast and it wouldn’t be odd if you were already familiar with the work of one of its member journalists as many of them work for well respected outlets, like The Toronto Star, RPM Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Automotive Press International, and Maclean’s Magazine.
Complementing their already large influence over the Canadian automobile market are the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) Awards. Thses awards have a huge impact on the market by offering the CCOTY award to the most outstanding new vehicles of several market categories as well as an overall Canadian Car and Truck of the Year, Best new Technology and Best New Design. These awards can easily boost the sales numbers of new vehicles, and are often proudly displayed during commercials along with JD power awards. And AJAC acknowledges this heavy impact, stating on its website:
“Fully 74% of the 2008 Buick Enclave buyers who were aware of the AJAC Awards program when they purchased their vehicles knew that the Enclave was voted Best New SUV Over $60,000 – a record high-point for awareness. And of those buyers, 41% said the award had a positive influence on their buying decision.”
The awards are given out annually each February at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. However, the results for individual categories are known by November, or in this year’s case, by late October.
In order to judge the new cars and utility vehicles of the year AJAC sends over 70 of its member journalists to participate in a massive, annual, 4 day, test-driving event aptly called “TestFest”. The vehicles are run through a series of road tests that reflect real world conditions on public roads, thus keeping the results relevant to Canadian buyers. As well, it is important to note that these tests are completed by each journalist comparing all cars in a back to back fashion, driving on the same roads and in the same conditions as all the other testers, ensuring that all the results are as objective, and unbiased as possible. Furthermore, the fact that the journalists are able to evaluate the performance of multiple vehicles, while the results are still fresh in their minds, adds to the reliability of the vehicle’s score. There are a total of 21 parameters for the journalists to consider, and everything from acceleration, braking, and manoeuvrability to safety and cargo capacity are rated on a 0-10 system. After all the testing is completed, the scores are tallied by a third party company and are kept confidential from everyone – including AJAC – until the awards press conference.
Nevertheless, the system isn’t perfect, and many enthusiasts will have their complaints about its inconsistencies. For instance, some feel that the eligibility of some qualifying cars is questionable because they aren’t completely new to the market. Also, many detest the fact that the cars are categorized by price, meaning that options can affect the car’s overall score both positively and negatively. Again even more enthusiasts will find the results useless because it gives consumers the notion that the current winners are superior to the previous winners – which is often argued not to be the case. This further upsets many auto enthusiasts because the awards have such a great impact on the market. Accordingly, some even believe that the AJAC awards may be manipulating consumers by pointing them in the direction of inferior products.
Granted both AJAC and CCOTY aren’t perfect, the success of AJAC is not undeserved. The association is made up of highly qualified journalists and producers with at least a year’s worth of considerable involvement in automotive journalism, and only the best of its members are selected to judge CCOTY. And though the CCOTY’s evaluation criteria isn’t bullet proof, AJAC makes substantial efforts to fill in the holes by keeping an archive of past winners on their website and maintaining testing parameters that more accurately define a vehicle’s consumer appeal.
The Chevrolet Cruze CCOTY 2011 was a huge improvement from the Chevy Cobalt which it replaced
Looking on the brighter side, these awards are here to encourage automakers to explore new ideas, push technology farther, and diversify the automobile market. We gather annually to celebrate innovation, improvement, and to get excited about change. On the whole, AJAC and their CCOTY awards are striving to do exactly what they set out to: discover the best new additions to the Canadian automobile market, and no one does it better.
This year’s winners:
Best New Small Car (Under $21k) - Hyundai Accent
Best New Small Car (Over $21k) - Hyundai Elantra
Best New Family Car (Under $30k) - Kia Optima LX
Best New Family Car (Over $30k) - Kia Optima Hybrid
Best New Luxury Car – Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 4MATIC Sedan
Best New Prestige Car – Mercedes-Benz S-Class S350 BlueTEC 4MATIC
Best New Sports Car (Under $50k) – Hyundai Veloster
Best New Sports Car (Over $50k) – BMW 1 Series M Coupe
Best New SUV (Under $35k) – Dodge Journey
Best New SUV ($35k-$60k) – VW Touareg TDI Clean Diesel
Best New SUV (Over $60k) – BMW X3
Canadian Car of the Year, Truck of the Year, Best Design, and Best Technology are to be announced at the Canadian International Auto Show in February.
For more info on AJAC and what they do, see their website below: