Skip advert
Advertisement
Opinion

'Is Germany's domination of car design, affordability and desire weakening?'

With Audi's unprecedented early exit from World Car of the Year, Mike Rutherford asks is Germany losing its motoring domination

OPINION Twin Test

The annual World Car Awards competition is a bit like a breathless horse race that gallops for months through some of the leading motor cities, from Europe and Asia to North America. 

There are dozens of hopeful runners and riders with varying degrees of talent, experience, energy or prospect of a class or overall win. Of these, we find fearless rookies such as SEAT, Skoda and SsangYong; more traditional midfield veterans like General Motors/Cadillac and Ford; then the ‘clear favourites’ – Audi usually being one of them because it has so far picked up more World Car trophies (10) than any other car manufacturer on the planet.

Advertisement - Article continues below

World Car of the Year 2020 nominations

Yet this company, or to be more precise the four cars it put up for contention, fell at the first fence in this year’s race, with no nomination for a class or overall win. America’s wobbly Ford and out-of-touch GM/Cadillac also crashed at the same inaugural hurdle, as did SEAT and Skoda, plus SsangYong, the Korean firm that you underestimate at your peril.

But it’s Audi’s unprecedented and worryingly early exit from the World Car programme in 2020 that leaves the firm open to question. Is it losing its way? And how come ‘lesser’ brands such as MINI, Peugeot, Toyota and Volkswagen confidently trotted through to the next stage when Audi couldn’t?

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Is Germany’s grip on the design and production of affordable, desirable, small to mid-sized cars weakening? With four German overall finalists, not quite – but Opel is out of the running, so things could be rosier. At the same time, is Japan also on the decline? Apart from Mazda and Toyota (the Supra is a World Performance Car finalist), it would appear so – not least because these are the only Japanese firms still in the running, having cantered through the Delhi Auto Expo at the start of this month before stopping at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, prior to the final furlong and prize-giving at April’s New York Auto Show. Embarrassingly, Honda, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Suzuki all failed to build new qualifying models for the world, so were – and still are – red-faced non-starters this time. 

Close neighbour South Korea boasts a different, more positive story because it has three Kias and two Hyundais in the tournament. The biggest World Car Awards prize is the overall World Car of the Year (WCOTY) gong, which is independently rated the No 1 automotive prize on the planet. And although Germany has four contenders in the WCOTY Top 10 (the Mercedes CLA and GLB, plus Volkswagen’s new Golf and T-Cross), South Korea has a credible three (the Hyundai Sonata, plus Kia’s Soul EV and Telluride), Japan two (Mazda 3 and CX-30), and Britain has just one – the new Range Rover Evoque

Yup, you read me right – as things stand, for everyday, just-about-affordable cars that hit the spot, the new world order comprises Germany, which clings to the top slot, South Korea that rises to second place, then Japan slipping into third, followed by Britain in fourth and France fifth. The once-great, now-troubled car-producing nation that is the United States of America is well and truly out of the race – in more ways than one.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know in the comments below...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Goodbye 40 TDI: Audi drops the numbered engine names that confused us all
Audi 40 TDI badge
News

Goodbye 40 TDI: Audi drops the numbered engine names that confused us all

Audi is set to remove the powertrain naming strategy from the back of its cars
18 Mar 2024
Best new cars coming in 2024
Best new cars coming in 2024 - header image
Best cars & vans

Best new cars coming in 2024

There are some big new models from the likes of BMW, Citroen, Dacia, Ford, MINI, Skoda and more on the way in 2024
12 Mar 2024
Audi RS Avant megatest: the greatest fast Audi estate cars head-to-head
Audi RS Avant megatest - static header
Features

Audi RS Avant megatest: the greatest fast Audi estate cars head-to-head

We bring together the very best Audi RS Avants to celebrate 30 years of quattro-equipped fast estate cars
26 Dec 2023
Ken Block’s Electrikhana Two is a fitting tribute to the tyre destroying internet hero
Audi S1 e-tron quattro Hoonitron - front action
News

Ken Block’s Electrikhana Two is a fitting tribute to the tyre destroying internet hero

The new Electrikhana Two video was filmed in November 2022, less than two months before Ken Block’s death
6 Dec 2023

Most Popular

Toyota Yaris vs Renault Clio 2024 twin test: hybrid supermini battle
Toyota Yaris vs Renault Clio E-Tech - front tracking
Car group tests

Toyota Yaris vs Renault Clio 2024 twin test: hybrid supermini battle

With more and more electrified rivals arriving, Toyota has given its hybrid-only Yaris a facelift. We put it up against Renault’s class-leading Clio.
13 Apr 2024
'The cure for slow electric car sales is simple - lower prices'
Mike Rutherford opinion - Skoda Enyaq tracking shot
Opinion

'The cure for slow electric car sales is simple - lower prices'

Mike Rutherford thinks the prices of electric cars is the number one thing deterring consumers from making the switch
14 Apr 2024
New Volkswagen Golf 2024: facelifted hatchback icon on sale from 11 April
Facelifted Volkswagen Golf - front static
News

New Volkswagen Golf 2024: facelifted hatchback icon on sale from 11 April

The eighth-generation Golf has been given a mid-life refresh - just in time for the model’s 50th birthday
9 Apr 2024