Jaguar best for womenhttp://www.wheels.ca/article/783383
JIL MCINTOSH FOR THE TORONTO STAR
Women's World Car of Year another step for women who drive, buy and enjoy automobiles
Earlier this week, a new award winner was named: the 2010 Jaguar XF was crowned the Women's World Car of the Year. It was a special announcement to me for two reasons. First, I was one of the judges. Second, and more importantly, it's another step for women who drive, buy, enjoy, and yes, write about automobiles.
The award was dreamed up and then tirelessly organized by New Zealand journalist Sandy Myhre, partly in response when she discovered that the panel of judges who named the World Car of the Year (no relation) in 2007 were all men, even though women are responsible for at least half of all auto purchases.
She found other women writers from the United Kingdom, South Africa, U.S., India and Australia – along with me, and my good friend Regina Chan, who reviews vehicles in Vancouver for Chinese-language publications – and asked us to drive and assess various cars for the award.
It required a lot of fine tuning, and some very worthy vehicles were excluded from the running, because each car had to be available in a minimum of 10 countries.
But in the end, we voted in four categories: Luxury, won by Jaguar XF, with Audi A6 the runner-up; Family Car, won by Volvo XC60 with Honda Accord the runner-up; Sports Car, won by the Audi TTS with Mazda MX-5 the runner-up; and Economy Car, won by the Volkswagen Golf Diesel with Ford Fiesta right behind it.
In realistic terms, Jaguar's win isn't going to make much of a difference to the company. This is a car that, in Canada, has starting prices of between $61,800 and $85,300 and plays to a niche market. And every award, no matter who judges it, is inherently very limited: the "best" car is really a meaningless title, because the best car is the one that's right for each buyer. That could be a Lamborghini for one, and a used minivan for another, and they're both valid choices.
What did matter, though, is that for once, women weren't pigeonholed into selecting vehicles based solely on how many grocery bags would fit, or how well the child seats went in (although those were considerations).
We were asked to look at value, how easy the controls were to use, how comfortable the seats were, and the vehicle's environmental footprint.
But we were also asked to assess them on performance, on handling, and a couple of points for "sex appeal" — all generally considered the territory for male drivers.
And yet, there are men who know only where the gas and key go in, and women who love their cars with all their hearts — perhaps not as many as the other way around, but enough that automakers, dealers, and yes, vehicle award juries need to pay attention.
Things are certainly better than they were in the past, but there is still more that can be done. I'd like to see salespeople always take women seriously in the showroom. And yes, with the shoe on the other foot, I'd like to see many customers do a little more research before they plunk down a year's salary on a car after a three-minute test-drive, and then be upset when it doesn't fulfill their needs.
None of us knew the winners before the official announcement, and frankly, I was surprised when the Jaguar won. But then I realized that this goes beyond what vehicle took the crown. This is about women driving and buying cars the way they should: by what's important to them.
Motorheads aren't just men anymore. Some of us love driving, too.