A coming of age in Geneva.
Now in its 59th year, the earnestly intentioned but often derided European Car of the Year contest has been a hostage to fortune over the past three years. This time pestilence has yet again denied the media attendance at the live announcement on the eve of the Geneva Salon, but minds have been far more concentrated on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rightly described by the ECotY organisation as “this terrible war.”
In a darkened arena in Geneva, ECotY president Frank Janssen stated his organisation’s response to the invasion: no Russian flag on display at the presentation and the two Russian jurors’ votes would be excluded from the count. I’m sure Vadim Ovsiankin and Sergey Znaemsky are decent fellows, but needs must in these times. Their votes won’t count this year, but they retain their jury places.
In the usual gloomy arena in the depths of Palexpo, sombre at the best of times, it’s business as usual. There’s a new moderator this year, Eurosport World Touring Car Championship presenter Alexandra Legouix, upbeat, well-informed and enthusiastic.
Sandro Mesquita, representing the Geneva International Motor Show, gives a short and gracious introduction. He promises that the 2023 show will return stronger than ever, regaining its crown as the automobile industry’s foremost gathering. I wish I shared his optimism, but that patient is going to take some time to recover.
The fast-paced video reviews can be enlightening. Testing in northern Finland showed the effect of cold temperatures on EV battery ranges. There was quite a bit of Mustang-love, and the different characters of the platform-sharing Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 were noted. The Hyundai is a coolly-appointed lounge on wheels, while the Kia is a sporty driver’s car to match its four-door supercar visual pretensions.
And so to the voting. Three close front runners quickly emerged, the two Korean EVs and the Mégane E-Tech. Many national juries, notably the Germans with no home-branded(1) contender, divided votes in an even spread rather than backing a single outright winner. The UK, always last to declare, gave the Mégane a storming 38 points, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Kia EV6 from the top of the podium.
The November ECotY shortlist showed that the contest belonged to the battery electric future. The near-dominance of the Kia and Hyundai in the final count showed how far and fast South Korea’s semi-detached automakers have moved forward(2).
There was only one setback. All attempts to contact a representative of Kia failed. The individual was ready and waiting, but the masters of infotainment and the connected world could not establish the necessary link. Let’s just hope that the designers of the EV6 have made sure it is free from such fallibilities.
I’ll conclude with a couple of asides, from the perennial ECotY through the years video, a staple of these events.
The ‘Simca Horizon’ is nothing of the sort, but actually Linwood’s finest stop-gap, the Chrysler Sunbeam. This has never been corrected. Is it an ECotY in-joke?
And (Richard, look away now) the video emulated a Top Gear caper by driving a Kadett E into the sea for unexplained reasons.
(1) The nominally Spanish Cupra Born is built at the Zwickau-Mosel plant in Saxony.
(2) Previously, the only South Korean ECotY shortlist appearances have been the Kia Ceed (4th in 2008, 3rd in 2019) and Stinger (4th in 2018).