VOTY 2012: Um, Why?

2012 Nissan Juke 21
Photo by Randy Stern

Now, why would a small-time automotive website/blog have the audacity to award a "car of the year award?"

Good question.

There are two answers to the question. One is very simple: Why not? Why not, indeed! It is arrogant, to say the least, but it lends to the second answer to the question above.

By recognizing a vehicle, a publication could put itself on the map. It gives prestige and exudes gumption to crown a car, truck, minivan, or SUV/crossover a lofty status of being the best of the best. It is a catapult for being influential amongst social media-borne publications.

Blah, blah, blah, you say. We are not a major automotive media player, mind you. Nor is this a part of some larger corporation with deep pockets and connections to wherever. No, it is just some guy originally from the flatlands of the San Fernando Valley living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota who have become some influential voice amongst the automotive media corps.

Though, I will admit that having a day job and three outlets to feed certainly help in that manner. Then again, it is hard to be humble when you are crunching numbers and setting up the SurveyMonkey account for the Short List…etc.

However, six years of doing the Vehicle of The Year award yielded plenty of discussion from various fronts. It spawned the reactions and questions above. It also is a learning process that gives me a chance to improve upon a good thing.

The learning process is both internal as well as external. The biggest read for the VOTY is watching the process from Motor Trend's perspective. Though every major publication and media organization has some form of award, MT remains the top prize in the USA for an automaker. The "caliper" is akin to an Oscar or an Emmy to the recipient.

What I learned from MT is the process. They thoroughly test their nominees at once and select a winner based on a scoring schedule. That part is thrilling, nonetheless. However, the rule of "what Randy drove during the course of a year and is published in V&R" lengthens the process and provides context to the crunching of data that is happening as we speak.

I also look at the readership factor. An online publication, whether you call it a website or a blog, is driven by your hits. V&R could easily be an ego show for me, but it is in my nature to engage with the readership – to include you. The extension of social media – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – enables me to do exactly that, while driving traffic to this site.

This is the impetus of doing the public vote. To put out the nominees – this year, to be narrowed down to a 10-vehicle Short List – for a public vote ultimately gauges a true winner. No matter how powerful a vehicle or how it fared in a review, you have an opinion about it. This is a way to say: "I had a hand in picking a winner." That, I believe, is more important than what I have to say on here.

When it is announced which vehicle won, the fun part begins.

Compared to other publications, V&R lacks a budget. We do not have Josten's forging a trophy every year to give out in Chicago in February. Nor do we have a local award shop do the same. It would be great to hand something substantial to bring home and say "Victory & Reseda says 'congratulations' – here is your prize!"

A certificate speaks volumes, however. Ask one of my other outlets! Lavender gave out their annual fetes as the rebranded Lavender 100. It used to be called the Fab 50 concentrating on public votes on which places, organizations and so forth are indeed "Fab." The idea was expanded to recognize people within the community who made a greater impact on our lives.

I look at one of the recipients, a friend and fellow literary artist – no, wait, one of the best damn literary artists in the Twin Cities – who was proud of her Lavender 100 certificate. Andrea Jenkins, in my own eyes, was indeed part of a much deserved group of people receiving their awards in the form of recognition only a signature by the publisher can afford.

This is why V&R does the VOTY. It comes from a place where it believes in being an independent voice. It provides a different context other automotive voices gives.

As for the name, it has a certain ring that resonates across social media. The OEMs know it and love the idea of VOTY. Rather, it has become a brand onto itself – or, could be.

I suppose I need to get back to the business of crunching data and collecting panel votes towards the Short List. Two days after you remove your make-up and put away your costume for Hallow's Eve, the real test of VOTY's mettle will be presented for your own submission. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

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