The winner of The Car of the Year 2012 has been announced as the Ampera Volt model. Don’t recognise the brand? Well that is because this car has a complicated background, having input from numerous different groups. Among those involved in its production we find Opel, Vauxhall, and Chevrolet, with the former two bringing their knowledge of the Ampera model into the mix, and the latter that of the Volt. It could have been a muddle, but the cooperation seems to have paid off.
There can be no argument that the Ampera Volt is an attractive car. The design is slick, the interior space is well organised, and it is entirely electric. The latter detail was, presumably, the deciding factor for the judges of Car Of The Year. How much should the car’s source of energy bears on the overall assessment?
The Ampera Volt is, as far as electric cars go, top of the crop. It cleverly blends a small combustion engine into the mix to rescue the car in case the electric engine’s limited range (a mere sixty kilometres) should meet with trouble. It gives the drivers the certainty that their car will remain reliable, even at a time when sources to recharge an electric car are nowhere near as common as our familiar petrol stations.
Other than that, however, it is not radically superior to the vehicles that came second and third in the competition (the Volkswagen Up!, which came second, and the Ford Focus on third). This is not to detract from the importance of electric cars, not at a time when pollution is such a critical problem for our planet as a whole, and fule prices are so high. The Ampera Volt won, supposedly, for being one of the first electric cars to really meet the needs of consumers. It does this on the road, no doubt – however, its price is still a bit out of range for most people.
Sales in new markets indicate that there is an interest in many other aspects of cars beyond their source of energy. In China, for instance, where an appetite for automobiles is growing rather than waning, SUVs are booming. A parallel prize to the Car of the Year, one held in Spain and which, crucially, included public voters among the jury (find the official site here: https://www.i-caroftheyear.com/), also saw an SUV taking the title – the winner being Range Rover’s Evoque.
The case for the SUV is only an easy example of how many factors must be taken into account, over and beyond eco-compatibility, when trying to assess which car best understands the consumer and their needs. The world of cars is as heterogeneous as its users, and a prize as generally titled as ‘Car of the Year’ cannot fail to account for this diversity in taste, in interest and in practical use.