Coming out of the debilitating effects of the pandemic, it is a sign of the Indian auto industry’s resilience that 2022 turned out to be a year of growth across segments, including the burgeoning electric vehicle segment. Powered by multiple factors like latent demand, previously delayed launch plans coming to fruition, and an unshakeable optimism in the Indian passenger vehicle market’s future, the year witnessed one of the highest numbers of new vehicle launches. Domestic passenger vehicle sales during 2022 were nearly 3.8 million units, a growth of over 23 per cent. This has catapulted India to third position in the list of the world’s biggest passenger car markets. And an interesting stat there is the growth of C- and D-segment passenger cars and SUVs, a potential sign of the improving maturity of the market .
While it is heart-warming to see the industry expand and exciting for the consumer to witness the increasing breadth and depth of the passenger vehicles available in the market, it is a daunting task to choose the best of the best of the new launches when it is time for the annual ICOTY awards night. For jury members of the Indian Car Of The Year (ICOTY), it has been progressively more challenging every year to even whittle down the initial list of contenders to about 10–12 candidates. The ICOTY 2023 award, its 18th edition, was one of the most challenging yet, with the number of eligible candidates even in the Green Car award and Premium Car award by ICOTY running into double digits.
Oscars of the auto industry
Started in 2005, the Indian Car Of The Year, often referred to as the Oscars of the auto industry, has recognised and awarded the best vehicle launched during the previous year. For years, the ICOTY was a singular award that recognised the best across the various segments of the passenger car market. But since 2019, in recognition of the increasing choice in the luxury and premium car category, a Premium Car award by ICOTY was added. Similarly, with the surge in the number of new electric vehicle launches during the last few years, a Green Car award by ICOTY was instituted in 2021.
In many ways, ICOTY has been a barometer of the Indian car industry, often picking out that would end up setting the tone for emerging new trends. If there was ever an apt example for this, the ICOTY 2023 contenders list will be it, with vehicles overlapping and straddling two different categories and vying for an award in both. With mass market hybrids also qualifying for the Green car category and EVs also qualifying for the premium car award, it was one of the most difficult editions of the award when it involved voting for the various contenders.
There were a few years when the number of initial contenders for the ICOTY was fewer than ten. But the 2023 edition had nearly 13, and the initial contenders had to be voted on and the final shortlist had to be whittled down to ten so that the most important launches for the year could be voted on in a fair manner.
The final shortlist for ICOTY 2023 were Mahindra Scorpio-N, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Carens, Toyota Hyryder, Citroen C3, Maruti Suzuki Brezza, Skoda Slavia, Volkswagen Virtus, and the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 didn’t eventually make the list because it wasn’t made available for the jury round.
Green car award
The contenders for the Green Car Award by ICOTY 2023 were Honda City eHEV, Volvo XC40 Recharge, Kia EV6, MINI Cooper SE, Tata Tiago.ev, Mercedes-Benz EQS 580, BMW iX, BMW i4, Toyota Hyryder, and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. And the contenders for the Premium Car award by ICOTY 2023 were the BMW i4, the new Range Rover, the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580, the Lexus NX 350h, the BMW iX, Audi Q3, Kia EV6, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The ICOTY jury evaluation round was held at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida, near Delhi. This erstwhile F1 track has been the venue for conducting the jury and voting rounds for the past few years simply because of the opportunity it offers for, if needed, a quick refresher drive of any of the contenders. Of course, the track and its space allow the vehicles to be parked and photographed professionally, too. The ICOTY constitution has largely remained unchanged when it comes to the guidelines for voting by the jury members. The guidelines have been framed to ensure that the voting is fair by limiting the possibility of both indecisive voting and, at the same time, biased swing votes. Each jury member gets a total of 25 points to award to the final contenders in all three categories. The jury member can assign a maximum of 10 points per vehicle; there must be a minimum of five vehicles that the 25 points should be distributed amongst, and there has to be a clear number one rank amongst them.
The jury round and voting process was overseen by the ICOTY Chairman and the knowledge partner, Deloitte India. Representatives of the consulting and audit major were present at BIC to ensure the integrity of the voting process. And Rajiv Singh, Partner and Automotive Sector Leader, Deloitte India, was at hand during the award ceremony as part of the award presentation. This was the second year as ICOTY’s knowledge partner for Deloitte India.
After the votes were compiled and the winner was unveiled at the award ceremony, the Indian Car of the Year 2023 was the Kia Carens, a 3-row SUV that has already become extremely popular for its practicality, feature list, and focus on safety. Kia Motors hit the proverbial jackpot by also winning the Green Car of the Year award for the EV6, its first all-electric in India. With its unique futuristic design, plush interiors, and practical battery driving range, the EV6 has already exceeded the company’s expectations in terms of bookings. The winner of the Premium Car award by ICOTY was the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580. The most attractive and plush electric flagship sedan out there, the made-in-India EQS, has really set the benchmark for luxury BEVs.
This year’s ICOTY saw a couple of firsts. It was the first time that one brand’s vehicles won two awards under two different categories. This was also the first time that the Premium Car Award’s top three ranks were taken by all-electrics. The first runner-up for the ICOTY was the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, and the second runner-up was the Mahindra Scorpio-N. The first runner-up for the Premium Car Award by ICOTY was the BMW i4, and the second runner-up was the BMW iX. The first runner-up for the Green Car Award by ICOTY was the Tata Tiago.ev, and the second runner-up was the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. Maruti Suzuki’s strong hybrid, ranking third in the green car stakes, was another highlight.
The ICOTY award ceremony has been sponsored by JK Tyres & Industries since its inception and the company has presented the award. The support extended by JK Tyre & Industries under the leadership of Dr Raghupati Singhania has contributed to the growth and rising reputation of the ICOTY awards. This year’s ceremony was held in Delhi, right alongside the Auto Expo.
Presenting the awards, Dr. Raghupati Singhania, Chairman & Managing Director, JK Tyre & Industries Limited, said, “I would like to congratulate all the winners for making the best in the segment and honouring excellence in the automotive industry.”