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What Do Car Awards Tell Consumers?

You've seen car commercials that boast about recent awards, but what do those awards really mean? Find out in this handy article from Zeigler Ford ESP.

Spend an hour watching television these days and you're likely to see a myriad of automobile commercials. Chances are most of those ads are going to name-drop some fancy, prestigious award that has been bestowed upon the vehicle by some organization, such as J.D. Power and Associates or Motor Trend magazine. But what do these awards really mean, and how are they awarded to these automakers and their products? Should buyers take these awards as an actual hallmark of excellence or is this just a marketing ploy designed to attract consumers and their checkbooks?

The answer is both. Awards are nice, but why should you care when you walk on the lot to buy a vehicle? Let's take a look at a few of the most popular and well-known automotive industry awards that car companies mention the most. It's likely you have heard about all of these awards but you're not quite sure who's issuing them or why? We have some answers for you, so the next time one of those car commercials mentions a fancy-sounding award, you can tell what the award really means when it comes to finding a truly reliable product lauded by a trustworthy organization.

J.D. Power and Associates

This is the award name probably most recognized and mentioned of all car awards. J.D. Power and Associates is a marketing company that issues a multitude of awards in various categories from automobiles to homes to electronics. In the category of automobiles, the firm compiles consumer opinions from a predetermined sample size for a range of criteria, including new car dependability, dealer service, buyer experience, third-party websites, and satisfaction of ownership, just to name a few. The company then sells the results of their surveys to the car companies that wish to include the award as part of their advertising campaign. So, while the award is given based on consumer opinion, you could also consider it a marketing ploy as well.

Motor Trend

Motor Trend is a monthly automotive magazine, considered to be the most popular and trusted publication covering every aspect of the industry. The magazine gives its Car of the Year award symbolized by the Golden Calipers trophy, which manufacturers usually predominantly display in commercials for the vehicle that won it. Since Motor Trend magazine is a highly-respected publication, the award comes with some influential prestige because the vehicles are judged on performance capabilities and not consumer opinion.

Kelley Blue Book

The Kelley Blue Book, also known as KBB, is the industry standard by which all cars are valued for an appraisal at the time of sale. The organization identifies its Best Buy awards based upon a range of qualifying criteria from fuel efficiency to rate of depreciation in order to judge which vehicles are the best value for consumers. Similar to Motor Trend, consumers can take comfort in knowing that an award from KBB is presented on the strength of stringent standards that analyze every vehicle's fact-based ratings in safety, quality, value, and performance. Neither Motor Trend nor Kelley Blue Book charge automotive companies for highlighting their awards in advertising.

Edmunds’ Awards

Based on Edmunds' combination of proprietary data and insights from Edmunds’ extensive vehicle testing and rating process, the Santa Monica, California, company selects Top Rated Vehicles each year. Their primary focus is to help inform consumers about best-in-class vehicles. The criteria for selecting Edmunds Top Rated Awards include performance, comfort, technology, fuel economy and value. Edmunds categorizes Best Cars as SUVs, family cars, sedans, towing and off-road trucks, electric cars, hybrid, sport and fuel mileage. The Edmunds' editorial team provides shoppers with in-depth vehicle reviews, automotive market insights, shopping tips and car research.

North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year Awards (NACTOY)

The North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards honor excellence in innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, user experience, driver satisfaction and value. The organization was founded in 1994 by auto journalist Christopher Jensen. The awards are judged by a jury of 50 professional automotive journalists from the United States and Canada who work for and contribute to independent magazines, newspapers, websites, television and radio stations. The structure results in a very diverse base of jurors.

Only car and truck categories were awarded until 2017 when utility vehicles were added to recognize the popularity of SUVs and crossovers. The utility category also includes minivans, while the truck category includes light- and medium-duty commercial vans.

The process of selecting the Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year begins by identifying all eligible new or substantially changed vehicles for that year. The jurors then test and evaluate throughout the year as vehicles become available through three rounds of voting. The first vote occurs in September to narrow the list of vehicles in each category to those judged the most worthy and features a comparison drive event in October to which all Semifinalist vehicles and all 50 jurors are invited. The jurors then vote for three finalists per category, which are submitted to and tallied by Deloitte in Detroit in November. The third vote is tallied in January by Deloitte and the Winners are announced in January. North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year are a set of automotive awards announced at a news conference each January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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