The 2012 Vehicle of The Year award is being made. A few errands entailed ensuring this to be something special for its recipients – Chrysler Group LLC.
Yet, the certificate is meaningless without understanding the story of how the Dodge Dart won. How a Fiat platform was transformed into the latest North American compact sedan. How the execution of the transformation began a new chapter in Chrysler's history.
The folks at Auburn Hills have been engaged with utilizing the new platform since the idea was planted three years ago at an all-day press conference plotting out a Fiat-guided future for Chrysler. It was how the C-EVO became the CUS-Wide and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta turned into the Dart.
This was a story that was followed from the beginning. The result was a compact car that became part of a 17-vehicle logjam at the time of shortlisting and made it through to the voting round with resounding results.
You really liked the Dart. So did V&R. It became #VOTY12 fair and square.
Looking back at the process, every one of the shortlisted vehicles on the ballot made a compelling argument for earning the #VOTY. For exmaple, a comment was made in the last V&R Chat that a lot of folks actually liked the Kia Rio and thought that would win. The Rio was very good, but the voters felt otherwise.
You could have made a similar case for the other shortlisted nominees. Another example, this year's #VOTY was not part of a 125-year legacy that retained traditional design elements with modern technology (though they were partners in the so-called "merger of equals" a couple of decades ago). Nor was it the latest in a 26-year line with enhancements worthy of extending its own legacy. It was not part of a personal journey that closed a 19-year gap in enjoying the brand.
This winner did not stir up any controversy. It was not a car that the readership questioned its worthiness amongst the #VOTY12 shortlist – even at the spite of a more enthusiast's car. Nor was it under public and media scrutiny for published fuel economy figures.
And it was not a pickup truck – though they are from the same OEM.
In the end, the Dodge Dart made the biggest case for being this year's #VOTY.
What this year's #VOTY represented was the best overall story – for both Chrysler and V&R. Covering the Dart was unprecedented in my books, as I was able to see this vehicle at two auto shows, a media drive event and at its first weeks on dealer lots. Before any consumer took delivery of the Dart, I understood what this car was all about.
Did I think it would win this year's #VOTY? Maybe…and maybe not.
There are reasons pointing either way. V&R is read and followed by a solid bloc of readers with strong Mopar leanings. I have interacted with these people and understood their passion for this site and some of the content on it – the Dart included. From that standpoint, perhaps the Dart was more of an apt winner.
Though my editorial policy is to embrace all OEMs equally, I will admit being very satisfied with the result of this year's #VOTY. The Dart is a good car and should do well in the marketplace. The CUS-Wide platform will spawn some great product for both Chrysler and Fiat worldwide. There is a lot to celebrate here.
Still, this #VOTY win surprised me – pleasantly.
What surprised me the most was the extraordinary support the Dart received. I am used to tight #VOTY races between several worthy vehicles. However, the Dart simply pulled away as the favorite. You could certainly quantify the 51% of the votes for this car.
For being a story worth covering from the beginning, this is where the #VOTY makes sense. This solidifies the fact that an award could be given to not just a vehicle, but to a story.
Maybe the V&R Garage will get a production-built Dart for further evaluation. If it does, it would never garner this award again – rules are rules.
The next step is to make the award and hand it off to Chrysler Group LLC. It is just a simple formality to conclude the #VOTY process.
Photo by Randy Stern