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Pierre Theron
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BMW and 28 Years of Car of the Year

03 March 2014, 20:30

The 2014 WesBank Car of the Year competition announced Porche's Cayman S as the winner. Even though this surprised a lot of people, the Cayman S is an outstanding car from the German car maker. It was also the priciest among the other 8 contestants for the title. Porsche, a luxury car, is gaining ground on the world's number, BMW, and with good reason.

More and more of Porsche's range is becoming affordable to the middle-class, and the brand still keeps its exclusivity. Thus, I went on to find out about how other car makers faired in the competition in previous years.

The 2010/ 2013 finalists where not short of any spectacular cars, but it was the Porsche Boxter that took number 1. This year's win makes Porsche one of only two auto makers to have consecutive wins. The other one is Opel, the GM-owned brand that competes in the small car segment. The thing that caught my eye however, was that BMW has won the most titles in the Car of the Year competition's 28 year history. That's an incredible 6 wins in 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2001, and as recent as 2011!

The story of BMW's offering in SA is well-documented. The first production facility outside of its native Germany was set up in Rossylyn, near Pretoria, South Africa. In 1984, when the first of the 3 Series rolled out the assembly, they couldn't have anticipated the incredible success the car would be in the next decade. We all remember the throttle-bashing guys who drove the 325iS and 333i. Those defined early 1990s popular culture in the country's auto and racing circles. So when the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists awarded the BMW 316i the coveted title in 1993, it was no surprise.

It was the car of the day; it was South Africa's own car. Today, those old used BMW 3 Series for sale are one of South Africa's collectors items. Of course BMW has become more global since then, and with SA's opening up to business to the rest of the world, we have leveraged the globalisation of sheer driving pleasure.

In 2001, BMW's 3 Series models at the turn of the century where nothing short of spectacular, such that the 320d became the first diesel engine vehicle to win. The criteria for winning is quite strict. According to the WesBank COTY website,

  • A Jury member is allocated 25 points to use in the judging of the finalists.

  • A Jury member is not allowed to allocate more than 10 points to any one vehicle, and may not vote for less than three vehicles and no more than a maximum of five vehicles.

  • The vehicle with the maximum number of points and the end of the Test Days is deemed the winner.

  • The outcome, so achieved, is final.

Many drivers would say that driving a diesel car is not as exciting as a petrol motor, well at least in terms of performance. However, BMW was able to crack the nod for the jurors and take the win. Of course, the mood of the early 2000s was different from today's. Diesel cars where the in thing, even VW capitalized on the demand by making more of its cars in TDi, alongside GTi.

In the ten years that passed since then, the BMW 530d was tied with the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 Tdi. The jurors equally favoured both cars in 2011. Since they are in different segments of the passenger car market, I won't compare the specs of the cars.

In 2013/ 2014, BMW has come up with a totally different line-up of cars, from the much awaited 2 Series to BMW i range of electric cars. The latter is arguably the boldest decision the Munich-based company has taken since deciding to test ground in a little African country at the bottom of the continent. The Guild has ample BMWs to choose from in the near future, but the competition from American, European and Asian car makers is going to be tough. 17 out of 28 times have German models won the title, so the probability of BMW being included at the next competition and winning is quite high. Whether it will be a diesel, petrol or electric vehicle, Werkes has them to compete.

Other Finalists in the 2013/ 2014 Competition

  • Audi A3 Sportback 1,4T FSI Manual

  • Jaguar F-TYPE 3,0 V6 S

  • Lexus IS 350 F-Sport

  • Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG

  • Peugeot 208 GTI

  • Renault Clio4 66kW Turbo Dynamique

  • Volkswagen Golf 7 1,4 TSI 90kW Comfortline DSG

  • Volvo V40 D3 Geartronic Excel

A Wheels24 poll conducted during the course of the competition revealed different results to what the judges decided on. Personally, no other car maker has redefined itself as much as Mercedes-Benz, and the A45 AMG being the most powerful car in its class could have easily won it number, but it was not to be. In the poll, 16% of the votes went to the Lexus IS 350 F-Sport. Lexus competes in the luxury segment as Porsche, Merc and BMW. In fact, in the USA (the now 2nd biggest market for automobiles), the Lexus brand is more favoured than BMW.

Historic Winners of the Competition

  • 1986 Toyota Corolla Twin Cam

  • 1987 Mercedes-Benz 260E

  • 1988 BMW 735i

  • 1989 Toyota Corolla GLi Executive

  • 1990 BMW 525i

  • 1991 Opel Monza 160 GSi

  • 1992 Nissan Maxima 300 SE

  • 1993 BMW 316i

  • 1994 Opel Kadett 140

  • 1995 Opel Astra 160iS

  • 1996 Audi A4 1,8

  • 1997 BMW 528i

  • 1998 Ford Fiesta Fun

  • 1999 Alfa Romeo 156 T-Spark

  • 2000 Renault Clio 1,4 RT

  • 2001 BMW 320d

  • 2002 Audi A4 1,9 TDI

  • 2003 Volkswagen Polo TDI

  • 2004 Renault Mégane 1,9 dCi

  • 2005 Volvo S40 2,4i

  • 2006 Audi A3 Sportback 2,0T

  • 2007 Honda Civic 1,8 VXi Sedan

  • 2008 Mazda2 1,5 Individual

  • 2009 Honda Accord 2,4 Executive

  • 2010 Volkswagen Golf 6 1.4 TSI

  • 2011 BMW 530d and Volkswagen Polo 1,6 TDI

  • 2012 Hyundai Elantra 1,8 GLS Executive

  • 2013 Porsche Boxster

You can follow the Hashtags #COTY2014 and #WesbankCOTY on Twitter for more sentiments on the competition.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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