South African car enthusiasts swing between affordability and aspiration when choosing their Car of the Year. This conclusion has been drawn by the organisers and sponsors of South Africa’s People’s Wheels Awards – the only national car competition in which the public are the judges.
The event, sponsored for the second time by Standard Bank, gives all motoring enthusiasts an equal opportunity to vote for the wheels ‘love of their life’, regardless of whether their vehicle of choice is a R3-million super car or a compact city hatchback.
In the 2013 awards, the resounding victor was the Range Rover Evoque – a modern, luxury SUV that challenges convention. “We were delighted that the Evoque was chosen by popular vote as the People’s Wheels Car of the Year for 2013,” says Peter Biven, Marketing and Communications Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa. “The award joined over 120 other accolades for the innovative Evoque and supports the popularity of the brand locally. While in many ways an aspirational vehicle, the Range Rover Evoque still delivers on the capability every Land Rover delivers, making it an attractive and practical SUV consideration.”
However, in 2012, the vehicle that people voted as their Car of the Year was the Kia Picanto, an affordable, compact city car.
“These two cars couldn’t be more different,” says Sydney Soundy, Head of Vehicle and Asset Finance at Standard Bank. “In one year, we have a car that leads in its category of being compact and affordable, and on the other, we have a high-end vehicle that naturally appeals to many South African, even though few can readily afford it. And interestingly, neither of these cars features as the top selling model according to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa’s [NAAMSA’s] sales figures for either year.”
He says that cars like BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, Toyotas and Volkswagens top the sales figures, but when people are asked to vote for their favourite through People’s Wheels, they either take into account their own immediate concerns or they look at the car that they most want – even if it’s not within their budget.
There are plausible explanations for these results. We think that the variation in winning characteristics from one year to the next may reflect the prevailing public sentiment of the time, leading consumers to place more weight on either practical or aspirational considerations,” says Mr Soundy. “In 2012, practical consideration for affordability, together with the features and looks of the vehicle, seem to have held sway in the choice of the Kia Picanto.”
It remains to be seen whether practicality or aspiration will win the battle in the 2014 Car of the Year.
“This is ultimately the strength of the People’s Wheels Awards. The views of people who admire and love the vehicles they drive, and those with an aspirational approach to motoring, can have their views heard,” says Mr Soundy.
South African motorists and car enthusiasts across the country are already gearing up to play their part in the 2014 People’s Wheels Awards. “Once again thousands of South Africans who are passionate and knowledgeable about cars can voice their strong opinions about vehicles available on the local market and those they have a particular affinity for,” says Mr Soundy.
As with the 2013 event, there are several categories that make up the Standard Bank People’s Wheels Award, allowing everybody from drivers of ‘moms’ taxis’ through to boy racers to make their opinions heard. There are two online surveys used to find the winners, a feature that also makes participation easy.
The People’s Choice Vote Survey allows voters to go online and nominate their favourite car, while the Vehicle Ownership Survey gives everyone the chance to answer pertinent questions about the vehicles they actually own or drive.
In the People’s Choice Vote Survey, a total of 32 categories are listed. These categories cover more than 460 models, making the awards the most comprehensive of its type in South Africa.
In the Ownership Survey views on cars ranging from the driving experience, after sales service and ownership costs come to the fore. These allow motorists to have a real say about their day-to-day experiences with the vehicles they drive. Questions on other facets of vehicle ownership such as tyre brands and their fuel of choice are covered in additional categories.
Taking part in South Africa’s most representative car event is simple. The surveys can be accessed on www.autoannual.co.za and only takes a few minutes to complete. A prize of R25 000 can be won by one lucky participant in a lucky draw.
Winners in the People’s Wheels Awards categories will be announced at a gala ceremony in Johannesburg on 21 November 2013.