The 19th edition of the Autobest Gala Awards took place last February in Mainz, Germany, in the Alte Lockahalle, a landmark of the city, the former repair shop for locomotives in 19th and early 20th century.
The gala had an original scenario, with Mr B and Miss A as the hosts introducing the awards. Previously announced, the two are fictional cartoons, as a first in the motoring media world. Mr B, short for Mr AutoBest and Miss A for Artificial Intelligence and is neither a robot nor a car, but a smartwatch with voice enhancement. The two characters developed a great relationship on-screen in introducing all 10 prizes in an original way. The two worked hand in hand with Liv von Boetticher, the new MC of the gala.
During the Mainz Gala, Autobest introduced several new initiatives and completely new features. The Autobest Charity Fund sets out with the aim of selecting young talents, passionate about cars and mobility to educate and train them at the highest professional level.
“We will work diligently to raise funds to the precise aim of helping the best hopes to study in depth this wonderful métier. It is a small contribution we owe to our métier end we will honour from now on,” said Dan Vardie, founder and chair.
A completely new and maybe the most challenging award was introduced: The Future is Here. The Autobest jury will scrutinise all new concept cars and will decide which one is the most disruptive, revolutionary but realistic enough that more 50 per cent of it to become a reality in the next decade. The Future is Here complements the A Star is Born prize dedicated to new brands, mobility solutions and companies. Both prizes will be awarded during the year and not necessarily during the Autobest gala.
For the first time in almost two decades of the Autobest, a new position of vice president of the jury been established, with the role being taken up by Gerhard Kuntschik. This position is a consequence of the faster growth of jury activities where efficient leadership is needed. This is also a sign that Jury is now entering a new era of this complex project.
“I am a proud member of the Autobest jury and that we, in our small world, somehow represent the EU in motoring journalism, as we come from 31 countries and can demonstrate how to work together, support each other and exchange news and opinions. I consider Autobest as a small EU in itself and am proud to assist our organisation in many issues in upcoming years,” said Gerhard on his appointment.
The Autobest – Best Buy Car of Europe in 2020 coveted accolade went to the new Opel Corsa. During the gala, the grand finale show revealed the car using a new technique of burning a wall, the latest for indoor events. The car emerged from the flames, like the Phoenix bird arising from the ashes, a metaphor of the spectacular recovery of Opel after decades in red.
“This sixth generation Corsa that you have awarded the Best Buy Car of Europe is extremely important to us as it is the first car we have created while being fully integrated into Groupe PSA. As you probably know, it is the third Corsa generation in a row to receive the highly coveted Autobest distinction. And it fills me with pride to see that you in the Autobest recognise that this sixth generation is loyal to what made the previous generations so popular,” said Michael Lohscheller, Opel CEO. He was also inducted as the newest member of the famous Manbest Hall of Fame, the Autobest Gallery for the best senior managers in the car industry.
One of the eagerly awaited moments of the night was the induction of Jean Todt, FIA President and the special envoy of United Nations for road safety, in the Autobest Hall of Fame.
“It’s my privilege to be here tonight with you and to enter this Hall of Fame award from Autobest. I am now a member of a gallery next to Wolfgang Porsche and Ratan Tata, two global personalities I respect a lot. I realised it’s a very special night with the champion Niki Lauda being awarded and some amazing cars which have been awarded. I’ve learned a lot tonight and it’s a memorable moment for me,” Todt said.
“This afternoon I had the opportunity to discuss with all the Autobest jury members, and it was quite an interesting dialogue. What you do is absolutely essential – we have been talking about motorsport, but we have also been talking about safety, climate change and I am sure everybody will agree with me that we cannot tolerate that in 2020 there are 1.4 million people who die on the roads and 15 million people injured and remaining with disabilities. It is our responsibility to help them and I have been comforted by the commitment of the Autobest jury members to become the ambassadors of our programme to reduce fatalities on our continent.”
Receiving the Companybest prize, Hans Oscarsson, CEO Geely Swedish Holdings, said on stage: “It is an honour for me to take this award in the name of our founder and chairman, Li Shufu and acting also for the employees of Geely. It has been an exciting way between the foundation of the company in 1986 and today.
You, as the experts of communication know best, that it was not an easy way to be successful and to have the reputation of an honest entrepreneur in the automotive industry. Geely has achieved this image we have today with a very challenging approach. We always want to improve. We always want to be better.”
Prof Sir Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover CEO on receiving the Safetybest award, a first for JLR, said: “What you have done over the years is really exceptional. You really represent Europe, and I am absolutely convinced that you are going in the right direction. The problems in e-Mobility are so deep, so difficult, so challenging but give us an opportunity, in the automotive industry, to go ahead again, to revolutionise. I am absolutely convinced we have to do more about safety.”
Yasuhiro Aoyama, Mazda Europe president, accepted the Technobest award saying: “I would like to express my gratitude to all the Autobest jury members and everybody for getting this award during our important year when Mazda celebrates the 100th anniversary since the founding in 1920, in Hiroshima, Japan. I am very honoured to get this award on behalf of all Mazda employees over the past 100 years.”
Luc Donckerwolke, chief design officer and executive vice president at Hyundai KIA Motor group became the latest inductee in the most prestigious hall of fame dedicated to car designers. “I am really honoured to be here with you today and to become a member of Designbest. I am a Belgian world citizen that was born in Peru and grew up in Africa, raised in 10 countries until the age of 18, with no real design environment, only beautiful nature. But from the first years of my life I was dedicated to motorised objects. It did not change in the meantime, only the toys. I had the privilege to play, sorry to design, the most beautiful toys for the best brands. And to accept fantastic challenges like designing for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis. Korea is the 19th country I lived in, and it has been a fantastic journey.
Design is teamwork, I would say more a family work as my design team all over the world is my family. It is in the name of my worldwide family that I accept this honour today.”
To receive the most important European accolade for green technologies and best EVs, one of the fathers of Volkswagen Group MEB, Michael Bäcker, head of product line e-Mobility of Volkswagen brand, stepped on stage: “I am delighted to receive this award – as head of the ID.3 vehicle project and many more to come, I am proud to receive the Ecobest award on behalf of Volkswagen for the ID.3, our beacon to the future. At Volkswagen we are convinced that the future of mobility is electric. It’s clear that if we want to stop global warming, one of the things we must do is make transport CO2-free.
“With the ID family, Volkswagen is taking the electric car out of the niche – and making it attractive and affordable for millions of people. That’s why we believe the ID.3 is the car for the upcoming system change.”
For the first time in its history, the Jury decided to attribute the Sportbest award posthumously to one of the legends of motorsport, Niki Lauda. Present at the gala, his brother, Florian Lauda, said: “I would like to use the opportunity to thank the organisers of this fantastic event and the Autobest jury members. I am deeply humbled to take this prize on behalf of my brother Niki. Thank you very much.”
Representing Skoda, Martin Preusker, from the Skoda press office accepted the Smartbest award on behalf of Alain Favey, vice president of Skoda who in a video message, said: “On behalf of Skoda Auto, I would like to thank you very much for presenting Smartbest 2019 award to Laura. We are accepting this award on behalf of the Skoda engineers who developed our digital assistant. They told her how to understand the natural speech and how to carry on a conversation with the driver.
Laura is eager and able to learn and our in house specialists will continue to do their best to assure that Laura, in Skoda fashion, will become even smarter or simply clever as we say at Skoda.”
During the ceremony, Autobest announced that its 20th anniversary gala would be held in France in 2021.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.