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Why Indian Car of the Year is the most trusted automotive award that everyone wants

When it comes to most awards, there is an inherent bias. The best way to minimise it is by having a diverse jury, which ICOTY has had for the past 20 years.

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A few years ago, Shekhar Gupta wrote an eye-opening piece on the fragile egos and politics of movie awards, given his own experiences in the past. Thankfully, the world of automotive awards is not that bad, although it seems that almost every automotive publication and website has one award to give out. While I do not mean to belittle these awards, some of them are indeed quite irrelevant.

Here is the thing, much like anything subjective, all automotive writers have different opinions about cars. And a core reason for that is that we all have different driving styles and prefer quite different things in cars. There are those who love driving fast around racetracks in cars where the driver’s seat is barely a couple of inches above the tarmac. There are those who love the great outdoors, want cars that can go through anything and sit high up with a commanding view of the landscape. As for me, I look at the gadgets and gizmos inside and outside the vehicle, but also the practicality of a vehicle. I’m not saying that the others don’t, but when it comes to most awards, there is an inherent bias.

The best way to minimise it is by having a diverse jury, which looks at the space differently. That is why the most important award of the year, and the only one you see car manufacturers use in their advertising and on the back of their cars, is the Indian Car of the Year (ICOTY).

This has been India’s most important car award for over two decades, as the name pretty much indicates, and I am a member of the jury to select this year’s winner — ICOTY 2023 — this being my third stint. Along with 18 other jury members from a wide variety of publications and with differing tastes and opinions on cars, a fair assessment will be made on which car is voted the best. Each juror is given 25 points which they have to divide between a minimum of five cars and a maximum of ten and has to select a clear outright winner. The votes are audited by a major firm.

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Why ICOTY is the trusted award

Of course, there are other qualifying criteria. For example, the best cars I have driven this year are luxury German electric vehicles, but ICOTY considers affordability and availability in their selection criteria. Dhruv Behl, editor, AutoX, who has taken up the rotating chairmanship of ICOTY this year, says that the awards relevance is based on the fact that jurors come from different publications, “who compete in the media, who come together to vote on a singular award that rewards a vehicle that is the most relevant to the Indian market in that year. These are all people who drive and review these vehicles throughout the year”.

However, Behl adds, “Considering the changes happening in the automotive industry, with green technology as well as a growing premium segment, we also award a Green Car and Premium Car.”

Through the year, I have written about most of the contenders for the award, such as the Maruti-Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Citroen C3, the Mahindra Scorpio-N. These three vehicles compete in very different segments. But they all compete for a single ICOTY award. Thus the award is not diluted over segments. Think of it like the Oscars. Any movie from any genre—and now even different languages—is eligible to win the top prize. While I have driven most of the vehicles in contention, usually for extended periods of time, there will be a jury meet that takes place at the Buddh International Circuit where we will get a chance to refresh our knowledge of the contenders and, if need be, drive them again.

The awards are supported by India’s largest tyre manufacturer, JK Tyre and the great and the good from the industry attend the awards night, which this year will take place on 12 January. It would be wrong to say that there are those who don’t leave unhappy. After all, just like many actors think that they’re the best, carmakers also think that they have made the best car. But, unlike other awards, some which seem like a junior school sports competition where seemingly everyone gets a prize, ICOTY’s process and large jury ensure that it remains the award everyone wants.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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