Kurt Verlin
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It’s Almost Impossible For Cars Not To Get Awards

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2022 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle
2022 Chrysler Pacifica, one of the Best Family Cars of 2022 according to Parents.com
Photo: Stellantis

If you do a lot of automotive research like I do for work, something becomes clear very quickly: brands love to flaunt the awards they win — and boy, do they win a lot of awards. But because there are so many available awards that it becomes almost impossible for brands or individual models to fail to get one eventually, they quickly become meaningless.

Let’s look at some of the ways a car might be represented in a publication’s latest list of the top vehicles in an arbitrary category. First, it’s typically an annual thing, so even if they miss out this year, there’s always the next. Second, the awards are often divided into automotive segments — after all, it doesn’t make sense to pit a Porsche 911 against a Chrysler Pacifica when they both try to achieve very different things. Nonetheless, as a result of this separation, the number of awards up for grabs goes up significantly.

Actually Meaningful: Pacifica minivan wins 2022 Top Safety Pick+ rating

Additionally, many award lists are just that: lists. They’re not content with telling you the best full-size pickup truck on the market today. Instead, why don’t you have the top three…or five? Forget for a moment that this particular segment includes only eight in total.

Seven-passenger SUVs are not that common either, yet you can find loads of award lists that include the top 10 or even 12. Then there’s specific awards such as those for cars under a certain price, or those best suited to teens, families, off-road adventurers, dog lovers, or even buyers seeking the top green winter vehicle. At the end of the day, publications can and do come up with so many unique categories that just about every car can be represented somehow, somewhere.

What’s more, the number of outlets that publish award lists rivals the number of car nameplates, and many undoubtedly come up with a variety of niche award categories in the hopes of getting your clicks. And the more vehicles they feature, the more likely it is that the manufacturer sends web traffic back to the publication via the press release they inevitably put out.

Sure, some awards rank more than others. For example, it’s always a good thing to learn a vehicle has earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award. But next time an automaker flaunts its latest obscure “honor” or “recognition,” consider for a moment if it really means anything at all.