In online poll, readers choose Mercedes-Benz C-class as Car of the Year

In an online poll for the ST Car of the Year, most readers thought the Mercedes-Benz C-class should win. -- PHOTO: MERCEDES BENZ
In an online poll for the ST Car of the Year, most readers thought the Mercedes-Benz C-class should win. -- PHOTO: MERCEDES BENZ

The public has a somewhat different opinion on which car deserves to be the ST Car of the Year.

In an online poll The Straits Times carried out, most readers thought the Mercedes-Benz C-class should win.

Out of 585 votes cast up to Wednesday noon, the C-class garnered 115. Toyota Corolla followed it with 88 votes.

The other cars trailed behind them by a quite a distance, clinching between 37 votes (Porsche Macan) and 57 votes (Mercedes-Benz S-class).

BMW's i3 - the ST Car of the Year 2014 - emerged fifth among the 10 shortlisted cars in the readers' poll. It had 53 votes.

The results were not too surprising, since the C-class was also a hot favourite with the panel of judges from Life! and Torque.

It was only when each car was scrutinised more closely that a more quantifiable set of results emerged.

The time-tested point-based system is also used, with variations, by judges in various other Car of the Year awards across the world.

In the ST awards, initial hot favourites do not always win the crown.

As ST Car of the Year panellist Lynn Tan says: "This is a sign that our voting framework is doing its job. A car may feel like a winner, but when you sit down and rationally score it based on the various criteria, it may not do as well against its peers.

"It may shine in one or two aspects... but it may be pulled down by lower scores in other aspects.

"I think this is how it should be. Otherwise, we are just voting with our hearts and not our heads."

How do car buyers decide which car to buy - with their head or heart? Or could budgetary considerations rule, perhaps?

Going by the distribution pattern of the car population  here, it would seem that a car's performance in the showroom has little to do with its success with the Car of the Year jury.

Land Transport Authority statistics show that the top five most popular car makes, according to last year's population size, are Toyota (157,589 cars), Honda (87,747), Nissan (54,360), Hyundai (42,643) and Mercedes-Benz (38,554).

Out of these, only Honda has ever clinched the ST Car of the Year title - in 2004 and 2006, with the Odyssey and Civic respectively.

With the exception of MercedesBenz this year, none of the other four even came close.

But if we cast the net wider, to include the next five most popular brands, the link between winning a Car of the Year title and selling more cars is stronger.

The sixth to 10th bestsellers according to population are BMW (37,691), Mitsubishi (34,117), Kia (23,080), Mazda (21,542) and Volkswagen (19,466).

Among them, Volkswagen won thrice - in 2005 and 2009 and last year, with the Golf GTI, Scirocco and Golf respectively. And BMW won this year's title with the i3.

The top 10 makes accounted for more than 75 per cent of the entire car population of 623,688 last year. The remaining 25 per cent was shared among some 65 other brands.

Christopher Tan