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2004 Awards and Boos in Seasonal Letter From Europe

By Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

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December 19, 2003; With the silly season upon us I've decided to nominate various cars and people associated with the automotive industry. The reason? Why not?

There are more car and truck of the year awards than hot suppers and the whole thing is just becoming silly. Yes, let me come clean, many, many years ago I too was associated with both but in those days the awards meant something, especially as there were far fewer of them. Now every magazine's advertising department more or less demands awards in order to get those coveted and hard to come by ad pages.

To give you an idea of the scale of this award mania, there is one given by the European auto writers, another by the Japanese and last but not least just about every American magazine has its own little awards ceremony during which the recipients try and look serious while holding a usually cheap and nasty trophy. "This means a great deal to us, not just to us here in LA/Detroit/London/Paris/Tokyo/Karachi/Kuala Lumpur but to all our hard working engineers, workers, dealers, etcetera etcetera." I've heard some of these speeches where the CEO in question didn¡¦t even know the name of the publication!

So, without further ado I will now present my own awards for 2003. All recipients will receive a warm handshake and a large gin and tonic next time we meet with the exception of one winner more of which anon:

Nicest PR family in the whole wide World:

John Clinard of Ford Motor Co and his daughter Anne who works for Jaguar. They also own a dog named after Stirling Moss! Beat that if you can!

Best person to have around when the poo hits the fan:

Dave Buchko of BMW North America who was by my bedside within minutes when I was wheeled into ER at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Best car launch of the year:

The fabulous new Jaguar XJ in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Nicest drive of the year:

E500 Mercedes from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe and back. Just majestic. Duly sold one to a friend of mine.

Sheer, unadulterated fun car of the year:

Subaru Impreza.

Silliest feature of the year well, there are several:

The hand break on the new Saab which had to be designed by a complete moron, cannot be used without breaking fingernails. Who allowed it into production? Have they every heard of San Francisco? Unreal.

Runner up- the man who put the bells on the latest Mercury Monterey. It chimes if a fly goes by, quite, quite idiotic. Seriously, if it thinks that you are too near to the car in front-in a traffic jam for instance-it will ring until the car in front moves which could be quite a while. Drove me insane.

Although BMW are slowly bowing to pressure-outrage would be a better word- vis a vis their infamous iDrive they should never have allowed it into production in the first place. Their engineers remind me of the guys who design golf courses. Great engineers-great golfers. Of course they can figure out all 700 functions just like Arnold Palmer can reach the green in two strokes on a par 4. How about the rest of us ordinary guys?!

Most pleasant surprise of the year:

Volkswagen's Touareg. My stepson Alan and his wife Laura bought one recently and are totally in love with it as well as with each other. The V-6 maybe a bit gutless but the V8 is great. Built on the same production line as Porsche¡¦s Cayenne for a lot less money.

Most exciting automotive moments:

Driving Ford¡¦s new GT and the 1955 gull-wing Mercedes 300SL. The former is sheer magic, no amount of steroids could give you this sort of adrenalin rush whereas the latter is a superb piece of history which I drove with great trepidation. Not just because of the 48 years old drum brakes (!) but also because it was someone else¡¦s half a million dollars worth of car.

Most adorable romance of the year (true story)

At a recent auto show, PR boss of big car company runs into very attractive PR lady who works for a rival company. Lady receives an e mail after the show in which big PR boss suggests a meeting. ¡§I thought he was going to offer me a job¡¨ she said in an exclusive interview with The Auto Channel. Six months later they are still going strong and we wish them the very best as they are both great people.

Home from home:

Volvo wagon. Honest, reliable, predictable and a car for all seasons.

Most unexpected treat:

An opportunity to drive a Porsche 911 during MPG's test day.

Least pleasant person of the year:

Norbert Haug, Motorsport Director of DaimlerChrysler. Amazingly rude and unpleasant. As a share holder I am appalled.

Biggest automotive disappointment of the year:

The new Rolls Royce. Nice people, shame about the car.

Most active CEO:

Bill Ford. A rather depressing article was published in a British magazine about his company's future. The following day HE was on the phone to the editor. Top marks.


I am sure that if that Wright Brother's replica had been piloted by Bob Lutz it would have taken off. Child's play after getting GM off the deck!

Happy motoring and all the best for 2004!

Publisher's Note: The opinions in the article are Andrews, but we think enough of his professionalism and knowledge, so that if he thinks someone is a jerk...they probably are!

Thanks Andrew for all of your support, love and telling it like it is, these past 7 years!
Happy Holidays to all and we will hopefully be here for you next year.