‘Land Rover just did the unthinkable in the World Car of the Year final’

This week, Mike Rutherford talks about the World's manufacturing elites and how that could soon include the British

Range Rover Velar opinion

Who built the best cars in the world over the last decade or so? Germany and Japan, I’d argue. Nobody’s pretending they’re perfect – both have produced a few automotive abominations over the years. But, credit where it’s due, they have got their cars right far more frequently than they’ve got ’em wrong.

Between 2006 and 2016, Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW won the World Car of the Year title for Germany seven times. During the same period, Lexus, Mazda and Nissan claimed it for Japan on four occasions. 

World car of the Year Awards

This was nothing to do with coincidence, luck or bias. Instead, it was everything to do with the German and Japanese brands being superior on the automotive front to rivals based in other nations. 

Things had to change. And they did. It was the end of an era for the ‘two best’ car-building countries last year when Britain, Jaguar, its workers and its F-Pace lifted the 2017 World Car of the Year title. And the Brits could be in line for another great year because Land Rover is the statistical favourite to win the coveted WCOTY prize in 2018. 

For a company to get one contender into the WCOTY Final 10 is a major achievement. Even Audi and Mercedes weren’t good enough to do that this year. Yet Land Rover just did the unthinkable by occupying a pair of Top 10 positions, thanks to its Discovery and Velar.

So, could it be two WCOTY wins in a row for Britain in 2017 and 2018? Possibly. Would this mean the UK could then join Germany and Japan as one of the ‘best three’ car countries on Earth? Probably. And if Sweden and Volvo continue to build fine all-new cars, it might be the fourth member of this elite global club. South Korea, blessed with Hyundai-Kia and the rising star that is Samsung Motors, is another that’s itching to join.

Auto Express New Car Awards

Undoubtedly, Germany is on the back foot, and to a lesser extent so is Japan. The WCOTY champion of 2010, VW’s Polo, has fallen at the first hurdle this year, as the all-new version has just been eliminated by the jurors in the first round of voting. This says much about products going out of fashion: the Polo badge is now 43 years old, and tired. But it says more about the current state of Volkswagen, which still has an awful lot of Dieselgate headaches to shed, and crippling legal and other fees and fines to pay. 

The German auto industry still struggles to see off the Japanese, while at the same time having to cope with stronger-than-ever product challenges from the Brits, Swedes and Koreans. It’s hardly game over for Germany and Japan. But, deep down, they know they’re being caught – and may even be overtaken.

Enjoy Mike's column? Then why not read last week's, where he talks about the rude health of British car makers?  

Recommended

Jaguar I-Pace review
Jaguar I-Pace - front
Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace review

The Jaguar I-Pace SUV is still one of the very best electric cars on sale
5 May 2021
Jaguar Land Rover shuts two factories due to semiconductor shortage
Halewood factory
Jaguar

Jaguar Land Rover shuts two factories due to semiconductor shortage

JLR’s Castle Bromwich and Halewood factories will temporarily close from 26 April as a global shortage of semiconductors impacts production
22 Apr 2021
Land Rover extends partnership with Virgin Galactic to 2024
Land Rover Virgin Galactic
Land Rover

Land Rover extends partnership with Virgin Galactic to 2024

Land Rover will continue to support the world’s first “spaceline,” providing vehicles to ferry future astronauts to their flights
30 Mar 2021
Jaguar Land Rover reveals prototype Covid-inhibiting cabin filtration system
Jaguar Land Rover cabin filtration system
Jaguar

Jaguar Land Rover reveals prototype Covid-inhibiting cabin filtration system

In-car harmful bacteria and viruses reduced by 97 percent through Panasonic’s nanoe X technology
16 Mar 2021

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New Vauxhall Astra prototype review
Vauxhall Astra prototype - front
Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review

A new Vauxhall Astra is on the way and we've driven a prototype ahead of its official arrival
14 Jun 2021
Illegal car modification hotspots revealed
Volkswagen Polo exhaust
News

Illegal car modification hotspots revealed

Gloucestershire has the highest proportion of illegal car modifications, with altered number plates the most common breach
14 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review
Porsche Macan prototype - front
Porsche Macan

New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review

We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the facelifted Porsche Macan SUV
13 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland
Nissan Qashqai - front static
News

New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland

Nissan will offer every school child in the North East of England a place on the Nissan Skills Foundation course to mark 35 years of manufacturing in …
14 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender

New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development

The Land Rover Defender FCEV prototype will be assessed for off-road and long-range zero-emission motoring
14 Jun 2021
New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power
SsangYong Korando EV
Electric cars

New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power

The new SsangYong Korando compact electric SUV will be on sale later in 2021, says the financially stricken South Korean manufacturer
15 Jun 2021