What a wonderful way to start a brand new year – by celebrating everything that was good and important about the one that’s gone by. I’m referring to the annual awards programme that I have carefully curated and nurtured over the past 12 years. But it becomes especially significant given the kind of year that we’ve seen in 2016. Challenges galore – from diesel bans to demonetization – the industry has had its fair share to deal with. But the awards celebrate all that because through it all we not only saw the industry fighting back, but also persevere and bring us some great products. The NDTV Car and Bike Awards 2017 also brings together our very fine jury – people who not only have immense talent, skill, experience and knowledge, but also personalities and points of view that I celebrate and feel lucky to share. They’re my support, and more importantly my friends (the editor of this magazine is one of them, and has been on our jury for several years now).
So how did it all go? Well, we have a very different system that very carefully assesses and analyses each nominated product – not just for its design or performance, but also where it sits amongst its peers. How the market perceives it, and where it stands – purely on its own merit. So all finalists have to be scored on 7 parameters – Safety, Value for Money, Performance, Emotional Appeal, USP or Merit, Significance to Segment and Environment. And all jurors do this in a secret ballot – with no pressure or influence whatsoever from my organisation or me. This leaves no room for bias or error, and what you get is a fiercely independent, credible and justifiable outcome. And just like this magazine sticks to its own reasons for recognising the year’s best we too stand by this logic in choosing the winning products.
And so I couldn’t be happier that we have two very strong and indeed deserving products to be proud of. The jury did very well in picking the Honda Navi and Skoda Superb as our NDTV Two Wheeler and Car of the Year for 2017. I have to mention here though that the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza came extremely close to the win, with a heart-breaking 2-point difference between it and the Superb. But the Czech sedan sneaked past to take the big win. Jurors have recognised its inherent strengths – great build quality, finish, performance, comfort and design – and also the fact that it shakes up its segment. The Superb has to deal with less competition today than its previous generation did, but it still lacks the hybrid option that the Accord and Camry have as their big strength. And yet it does so much to raise the segment benchmark, and offer good value too.
The Navi is rewarded for a whole different reason perhaps. It creates a new segment – that of a mini bike. It offers scooter-like convenience with bike-like appeal. It’s easy to ride, park and maintain. Yet it offers zippy performance with agility and efficiency. It’s also customisable and fun – and is really like nothing else in the market. And the best part is that it’s been developed here in India, by the local Honda India team, and not at Honda’s Japan HQ. The Navi packs in ingenuity with chutzpah and yet gives you a product that cannot be faulted on performance or design (it also bagged the Two Wheeler Design of the Year award by the way).
Other big winners span the likes of the Volvo S90, Jaguar XE and F-Pace, Hyundai Tucson and Elantra, the aforementioned Vitara Brezza, TVS Apache RTR 200 4V, Royal Enfield Himalayan and Aprilia SR-150. It takes a lot of effort, planning and man-hours to get the awards done every year. But when I look back at a great set of jury meets, a spectacular ceremony (first day-time awards show), and wonderfully deserving winners – I do feel a bit sad that it’s all over. And with that I look forward to a great year ahead that offers us as much and more, with a rich and rewarding awards process at the end of it. So here’s to 2017, and wish you all a very happy new year!