Commentary: A Year (And More) With a VOTY

"I'm a #DETHLOON!" All Photos by Randy Stern

It came as no surprise to you, either.

Based on feedback I received offline, the selection of the Cadillac ATS as the 2013 Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year was pretty much expected. Some people even thought that the Mazda6 would be a worthy winner amongst the five finalists, but you truly knew the Cadillac would own this award better.

Certainly the ATS is a worthy winner by virtue of what it represents. I always refer to the story as part of the VOTY win. Not just the vehicle itself, but the journey and impact it would have today and in the future. The Cadillac's story will be one scrutinized by the most discriminating consumers of automobiles – luxury car buyers.

It is an example of the impact of VOTY. Not everyone has heard of the award itself, but they know when a vehicle is named by such an award, there better be a damn good reason for it. It should also have a legacy and resonance. This is why Motor Trend's Car of The Year award comes up in conversations with applause, curious looks and some laughter. After all, if you recalled the Ford Mustang II winning MT's 1974 COTY – you had to figure out why within the context of its image today.

Yet, an award winner should also be fondly remembered. If a winner was one where the story was lived beyond its awarding, that should tell you how much impact the subject had on a publication, website, blog…etc.

This brings up the 2012 Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year – the Dodge Dart.

I always referred to the continuing story that V&R had covered back to the all-day presentations of Fiat’s plans to revive Chrysler in November of 2009. That line item for a compact sedan based on a Fiat Auto platform would soon become reality by 2012. This would be a journey that had me touching this car at the Chicago Auto Show that same year, seeing one on display the next month inside the Minneapolis Convention Center and driving two more during my first press junket that May in Austin, Texas.

Dodge Dart Social Media Drive 19

By this summer, I drove a total of five Darts. The latter two came for a week at a time to evaluate. The turbocharged Limited sedan was indeed a contrast in winter as was the SXT Special Edition model with the 2.0litre Tigershark did as it made it to a Minnesota United FC match months later. I had never spent more wheel time and put on more miles with one subject in years – until the Dart became a part of my life.

The Dart also spawned many conversations. One owner had an issue with his original car that involved Chrysler being involved in its resolution. The owner is enjoying his second Dart at present to the point of a few customizations on it. I met a few other happy Dart owners, who loved the fact that it is a complete car that could also be enjoyed with more individualization. These owners prove what Chrysler intended all along – the Dodge Dart is a canvas where the possibilities are endless.

These points along the arc of this story feed into a bigger one. How one vehicle could be an integral part of a writer's career? And, is the story over?

I doubt it is over. The same platform program has already spawned the Jeep Cherokee and will form the basis of a new midsized sedan next year. Also, Chrysler has released the 2.4litre Tigershark with Multiair engine promised back in 2012. In the 2014 Dart, this engine has been made available to other trims than the GT – the latter was originally called the R/T. Plus, there are more rumors abound for further mechanical enhancements to the compact sedan, as well.

There is a feeling that I would see another Dart in for review – with the 2.4litre engine. Perhaps in the GT trim – if not another model. I also hope to be able to drive the Cherokee and see the new bigger sedan when I attend the Chicago Auto Show this coming February.

A year ago, I saw the new Dodge Dart as just a VOTY winner. Through the continued experience with this car, it simply became more than that. The Dart has become part of the V&R story and the arc of my own career.

If there was one thing to be thankful for last week – it was the experience of the Dodge Dart from initial pre-production engagement to post-VOTY drives that helped frame this writer's life. That is a hell of a lot to burden upon one car.

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