Car awards are greatly sought after by manufacturers around the world — there’s no greater marketing pitch than a ‘Car of the Year’ title. In the competitive domestic market of Germany, it doesn’t get much better than the Yellow Angel award from Europe’s largest car club, ADAC. Unfortunately, the club admitted to meddling the numbers for this highly-coveted distinction on Monday.
The vote-based award was won last week by the Volkswagen Golf. However, after revelations by German news outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung, ADAC admitted that the editor of the ADAC Motorwelt magazine, Michael Ramstetter, had manipulated the results. ADAC Motorwelt claimed that 32,499 motorists had voted for the Golf, when in actual fact the car received just 3,409 votes. As a result, Ramstetter has resigned from his position. Volkswagen is considering returning the award, but expects ADAC to first conduct a thorough investigation.
ADAC claims only the numbers were rigged, while the order of the results was not affected. However, this controversy has raised many questions about the credibility of the highly-influential organization. ADAC also publishes car breakdown statistics and safety reports, which critics like Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, a car expert at the University of Duisburg-Essen, demand a review of. “If there are lies told about the ‘Yellow Angel’, other areas can’t be ruled out,” he said.
The controversy is also raising questions about the legitimacy of car awards on the whole. Helmut Becker, an economist who once worked for BMW, thinks this scandal could result in a broad reevaluation of awards, and even vehicle comparisons, in the industry. “We need to take a more critical look at all the awards in the car sector,” said Becker. “I see a danger that vehicle comparison tests have also been manipulated.” We can all agree that awards and comparisons alike should be conducted with integrity in mind first and foremost. However, automakers’ desire for that extra boost in sales will always make some folks wonder if any less than legitimate dealings are behind some of these accolades.