Should automakers “pay” for car awards?
The TTAC story via The Wall Street Journal, cites U.S.-based Consumers Digest and its “Best Buy” awards as an example of this questionable practice.
Now please, don’t confuse Consumer Digest with Consumers Reports. The latter is owned by the not-for-profit Consumers Union, purchases all of its test vehicles and refuses to allow its awards to appear in manufacturer advertising.
Similar to CR’s policy, CD has no advertising, relying on subscription income alone. But it does take money directly from automakers via the licensing of its awards for advertising purposes: $35k for the first award; and $25k for each award thereafter.
To further encourage automakers to pony up for the licensing fees, CD’s award page lists all winners of its “Best Buy” award but only offers links with further information for models that have paid CD licensing fees.
Here in Canada, we have a similar situation with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and its annual Canadian Car of the Year Awards, an event financed in part by automakers willing to pay entry fees.
According to AJAC spokesperson Beth Rhind, fees change each year, depending on the number of entries. Last year, AJAC asked manufacturers to pay $6,900 for each of 56 total entries.
AJAC doesn’t charge for the use of its awards in manufacturer advertising, but like CD, allows the practice.
Although AJAC says on its site the purpose of its event is to “provide consumers with sound, comparative information on vehicles that are new to the market,” not all “new” cars are evaluated.
At last year’s event not every "new" car was entered, while brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Chrysler Group, Ferrari, Maserati, Maybach, Lamborghini, Lotus and Rolls-Royce did not participate at all.
So, the question is: Should there be a clear separation of church (automotive award organizers) and state (automaker PR departments) when it comes to automotive awards?
Or are you just fine with the financial partnership that’s going on at Consumers Digest and AJAC because of the information they provide to new car buyers?
[Source: The Truth About Cars, Wall Street Journal]