Our guest columnist for the Victory & Reseda 10th Anniversary Stories columnist is William West Hopper, an automotive journalist based in Washington, DC. He is also a juror for V&R's Vehicle of The Year Award. Hopper is Past President of the Washington Automotive Press Association ans introduced me to the organization a few years ago. In turn, I was a member for a year.
Hopper was asked to contribute to our 10th anniversary celebration. In turn, he wrote up his view on our biggest annual task on our editorial calendar: The Vehicle of The Year Award.
You can read Hopper's reviews and related content at The Real DCCarGuy, Queer4Cars, and other outlets. Also, give him a follow on Twitter – @WWHopper, Instagram – @DCCarGuy, as well as LinkedIn and other social channels.
Thank you, Bill. Now, here’s what he has to say about #VOTY…
With the celebration of Victory & Reseda's 10th anniversary of producing authentic and informative automotive content for consumers and enthusiasts alike, it is a great way to delve into something that has become an annual celebration for the publication. The coveted Victory & Reseda Vehicle of the Year Award, #VOTY. An award that has predated V&R's formation and has developed its standing within the field of automotive industry awards.
Victory & Reseda's Publisher, Randy Stern, has long been an advocate for outstanding automotive engineering, technology, and design. #VOTY was developed with that in mind in 2007. For Stern, it has been both a labor of love and communication of excellence. Where did this award come from? How has it survived and evolved? How has Victory & Reseda grown the award into what it is today? Let us find out.
No doubt the impetus for an annual award was part of Randy's early life growing up in Southern California. Industry professionals walked the red carpet at the Grammys and Emmys to celebrate a job well done. Like those icons, #VOTY has steadily become a much-anticipated accolade throughout the time since nominees are keenly analyzed and peer-reviewed before a winner is selected. Maybe it came from deep within Randy's analytical mind when boiling down those thumbs' ups and downs into a list of finalists and identifying that one aspect that tips the scale and produces a winner each year.
What #VOTY is Not
#VOTY is not one of those pay to play awards or designed as an ego award. There is no application fee to be considered—just a call out for nominations from consumers and media members alike. VOTY is a simple, well-thought-out award process, and those have become rarer as many award programs have turned into profit centers for their publications. Whereas this process is a Victory & Reseda expense line item, between the time and effort it takes to pull together nominations, the actual award's production handed to an automaker, and the travel expenses to present that award.
Nor is #VOTY a popularity contest – who is the prettiest or flashiest four-wheel beauty that has taken the public's eye at that moment. Or even which auto has garnered the highest SEO score or most views over the year. The #VOTY award was born out of social media engagement. It is a statistical process that brings together consumers, enthusiasts, and numerous automotive journalists' thoughts together to select the vehicle they feel is the best of the best.
Who Makes Up VOTY?
#VOTY is a democratically selected award with regular people given the power to vote their favorites among a list of finalists. Stern chooses a panel of judges who are active members of the media who produce automotive content each year—adding and subtracting different voices each year, to keep the voting group diverse. It is that diversity of the judges that makes the #VOTY Award winner a vital decision. Not every panelist has the same automotive interests or focuses on the same specific set of topics. They produce different content for their audiences, ranging from high-performance to family-friendly, from off-road to luxury rides, allowing each year's award to be as diverse as the team of judges on the panel.
What brands have made it?
You may expect to see exotic brands and one-of-a-kind models on the award list. The reality is that #VOTY has always shown a solid list of vehicles that the everyday consumer would buy or lease.
2020 – Toyota GR Supra
2019 – Kia Telluride
2018 – Lexus LC
2017 – Volvo V90
2016 – Volvo XC90
2015 – Lexus RC
2014 – Dodge Challenger
2013 – Cadillac ATS
2012 – Dodge Dart
2011 – Buick Regal
2010 – Hyundai Sonata
2009 – Buick LaCrosse
2008 – Nissan Altima
2007 – Hyundai Sonata
Why is #VOTY so important?
All accolades have value. When nominees are publicly selected, and the award is decided by a group of knowledgeable and experienced professionals who make their living evaluating automobiles and trucks in real-world situations and backed up by real-world consumers, it shows how well-researched the finalists are. And that the winner each year may come down to just a couple of votes. The #VOTY awardee knows that the decision comes through a strong knowledge base of the judges and the vote of the general public.
Long Live the #VOTY Award
#VOTY is truly a labor of love for both Victory & Reseda's publisher and each of the judges that participate in the process. While it may not be a widely touted award, it is one that is much appreciated by the automotive manufacturing community as it represents an honest look at the automotive marketplace at the time. Follow the hashtag #VOTY for the announcement each Fall for the call for nominations and the panelists who have been recruited.
Here, Here for the #VOTY annual award!
The author (L) with V&R's publisher – Cover photo by Randy Stern