The Canadian Car and Utility of the Year awards program — under fire by some automakers last year for costs and declining value — has undergone a dramatic revision that’s gaining favorable reviews.
The program, also known as TestFest, is put on by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). It was first held as a two-day event in 1985. By 2005 it had grown to five days with automakers paying up to $10,000 per vehicle model entered. They also had to provide three of each vehicle entered for testing as well as staff and facilities onsite for the duration of the event.
For the 2016 TestFest, which evaluated 2017 model-year vehicles, the budget had ballooned to $500,000,almost all covered by automaker entry fees. Some automakers, led by General Motors, questioned the value of participation. In a story in November’s Automotive News Canada, GM Canada spokesman George Saratlic suggested that news coverage was falling off.
“I might be exposing my product to 70 journalists, but it’s not like I’m seeing 70 stories.” Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover pulled out for 2016, while Maserati entered for the first time.
Only vehicles that were new or significantly improved for the following model year were eligible. As well to qualify, they had to be available at TestFest for evaluation.