The World Car Awards recently chose the Volkswagen ID.4 for World Car of the Year. After test drives of eligible vehicles by a panel of 93 well-known automotive journalists, they chose winners for every category and then the overall winner.
Here’s the stream of the final announcement, which was conducted entirely remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic: (You can skip ahead to the overall winner at 50:40)
Reasons It Won
To be considered for the World Car of the Year, a vehicle must:
- have been launched and gone on sale in the past year
- must be available on at least two continents
- juror can borrow the car in question from manufacturer fleet of test cars
The criteria, which favors “world cars,” not just cars sold in one place, and only focuses on new launches, knocks out most of the ID.4’s competitors. For example, the Mach-E isn’t sold on enough continents, and Tesla vehicles aren’t new for 2021. This left the field wide open for Volkswagen.
When they announced the award and featured the vehicle, the first thing they point out is that it uses Volkswagen’s MEB dedicated-electric platform. This is important, as we’ve seen vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz EQC fail due to having a non-dedicated platform that leaves the EV version with sub-par handling. The first VW ID.4s sold are all rear-wheel drive, which really makes for a much better handling experience than front drive vehicles, or vehicles that favor the front wheels for power.
Early versions are rear-drive only, but they point out that it will eventually be offered in front- and all-wheel drive to fit various markets. It’s their first EV meant for the global market.
They also point out that it’s a big bet for the company to make, and they’ve put a lot on the line with the vehicle. While the ID.3 was on sale in Europe, this vehicle gets much broader appeal as a crossover. By taking the shot and getting it right enough to impress the 93 automotive journalists, they’ve shown that the company is willing to take some risks, but also competent enough to get it right.
In a discussion with Volkswagen’s head of marketing, Klaus Zellmer, they ask whether they are building vehicles with the Autobahn in mind. He said that they design vehicles for potential use in places with no speed limits, but there’s also traffic and some stretches of the Autobahn do have speed limits. Also, electric vehicles can be problematic at very high speeds, especially when it comes to range.
Members of the steering committee were also asked for their thoughts on the ID.4 winning.
Scotty Reiss, from Texas, said she thinks the awards are following industry trends, and really shows where the industry is going. She talked about how much appeal the ID.4 has to the average consumer, who tends to increasingly be a woman. Things like safety, room for family, and other things women consider more, she thinks it’s great that a vehicle that appeal to women won the award.
She later pointed out that the Honda e’s strong showing taking a category trophy home (but not the main trophy) was for its strong retro design elements and its overall charm. She wishes Honda would bring it to the US.
Jens Meiners, in New York, was asked about creating special EV categories for the World Car Awards, but like others on the broadcast, it wasn’t an idea that he was open to. Electric vehicles are going mainstream, and don’t need to be set apart in their own category like they might have needed to in the past. They don’t want send the message that EVs are a sideshow when they’re now and growing and important part of the main event.
However, the host does go on to say they are considering having a “World Electric Vehicle” award in future years, and the others on the stream said they hope it works out well.
Meiners also said that he quite enjoyed the Honda e in the same way as Ms. Reiss did, but elaborated a lot more on the EV driving experience. The smaller battery led to great handling, for example.
This Is Great for Volkswagen
For one, the criteria put the company in a place where the first thing people did was compare the vehicle to Tesla. That’s not to say they don’t have any strengths, but they definitely have some drawbacks in the form of slower charging, a less established name in the EV world, and some early software issues. That problem in particular, which affects vehicle charging and trip planning the most, leaves them in a bad spot for Tesla comparisons.
When they aren’t put up against Tesla, they had a chance to shine.
Truth be told, it appears so far that it’s a decent vehicle for many. It’s not the highest performing, nor is it the most exciting, but early reviews are showing that it is a solid daily driver and checks many of the boxes that the average driver finds important. Smooth power, ease of use, and room for people and things are all good. The vehicle also comes from an established vehicle brand, and that’s going to make a lot of difference in some buyers’ minds. Tesla fans might find that to be closed-minded, but whatever we call it, it’s a factor that’s out there and exists. We have to deal with it.
It’s also impressive that Honda’s “e” made it into the top tier, despite not winning the overall award. It’s not the best EV in terms of range, but it’s impressing reviewers on nearly every other aspect. In the places Honda is selling it, there’s decent charging infrastructure that can support an EV with only 125-ish miles of range, so it’s really good enough.
Seeing EVs take not just the top award repeatedly, but also to make a good down-ticket showing means they’re here to stay. They aren’t a weird specialty or niche vehicle that hardly anyone wants. They’re not just for the most environmentally conscious people anymore. That’s a good thing.
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