By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza
THE 4TH Car of the Year (Coty) Philippines Awards program, which was held at the Rockwell Tent in Makati last Thursday, established quite a few firsts.
It was the first time that: a European brand won the big trophy. The 2007 Car of the Year, the Volvo C30 (shown in photo) is a sports coupe that aced the Luxury Subcompact category versus the BMW 120i and the Mercedes-Benz B160.
What's more, the Swedish carmaker outshone its German rivals two more times when the Volvo S60 T5 won the Executive Car of the Year Award and the Volvo S80 2.5L topped the Luxury Car category.
It was also the first time that a Korean brand -- Kia -- swept four category awards, besting Japanese brands. The Kia Picanto 1.1 DLX bagged the Basic Subcompact Car of the Year Award, the Kia Rio 1.4 sedan was adjudged the Executive Subcompact Car of the Year, the Kia Carens CRDi collected the Compact Van/Multipurpose Vehicle of the Year Award and the Kia Carnival LX 2.9 CRDi short wheelbase won the Executive Van/MPV of the Year trophy.
For the first time, the Car Awards Group Inc. (Cagi), organizer of Coty, got a big business corporation to be the title sponsor, i.e. Petron Corp. Thus it is now officially known as the Petron 2007 Car of the Year Awards. The decision to get a title sponsor was made by Cagi 2007 president Ira Panganiban with the concurrence of his board: External VP Andy Sevilla, external vice president; Fernan Lao, internal VP and technical committee chair; and Jeff Reyes, treasurer.
All the officers and members of Cagi, if you don't know it yet, are media practitioners as Cagi is a nonstock, nonprofit private organization of motoring journalists that conducts consumer-oriented tests of mass production motor vehicles annually to help consumers make an informed choice when buying a car and to recognize the progress of the auto industry in engineering, quality, design and safety features.
This time, the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) supported the 2007 Coty Awards not as a sponsor, but as Cagi's technical partner in testing the entries. After all, AAP is a nonprofit, nonstock organization, the national auto club that is the only Philippine affiliate of the FIA, the Paris-based body that governs motor sports worldwide including F1, the WRC and Le Mans. AAP motor sports committee chair Mandy Eduque and AAP director Dave Arcenas participated in some of the car testing sessions.
The number of categories was increased from 11 in the 3rd Coty to 23 after the Cagi executive board consulted the technical experts of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi) on how to improve the Coty formula. Passenger cars now have nine categories: Basic Subcompact, Executive Subcompact, Luxury Subcompact, Midsize, Sports Car, Executive, Luxury and Ultra Luxury. Car-based utility vehicles enter four categories: 2WD Crossover/Wagon, 4WD Crossover/Wagon, Luxury Crossover/Wagon and Ultra-Luxury Crossover/Wagon.
Minivans were divided into four categories: Compact Van/Multipurpose Vehicle (MPV), Executive Van/MPV, Luxury Van/MPV and Ultra Luxury Van/MPV. Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were also Compact, Executive, Luxury or Ultra Luxury. Pickup trucks have two categories: 2WD (4x2) and 4WD (4x4).
The car manufacturers themselves, not Cagi, chose which of their products would participate and in which category each would enter. The car manufacturers also took care of bringing the test units to the test venue.
Entries that did not win in their respective categories last time were allowed to try again. Previously, losing entries were not allowed to participate unless the motor vehicle in question had undergone major changes or upgrades in engineering, technology and/or safety features. A facelift -- new headlights or taillights, a new grille, new bumpers -- did not count.
Eighty-seven cars and trucks were tested over a span of eight Saturdays from Aug. 25 to Oct. 13 at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. The total number would have been 97 if the test units of 10 models had shown up.
The number of Special Awards was increased from four to 19. Supporters of Coty 2007 sponsored the awards. Thus, Toyota Motors Philippines won the AAP Best Road Safety Campaign Award, the Honda Jazz 1.3 won the Standard Insurance Best Value for Money Award, the Nissan Teana the Rockwell Land Best Interior Design Award, the Mercedes-Benz S350 the Bridgestone Most Comfortable Ride Award, the Mitsubishi Outlander the Bosch Best In-Car Entertainment Award, the Subaru Impreza WRX the Globe Media Dream Car Award and the Petron 2007 Car of the Year, the Volvo C30, also won the Concept One Sexiest Car Award.
So Coty 2007 was a year of firsts, setting the stage for a more exciting 2008.