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Gripes? Yeah, with the TAWA Awards we’ve got gripes

cover photo by Kevin McCauley


Gripes? Yeah, with the TAWA Awards we’ve got gripes

Another year, and another TAWA event has come and gone. Being a member of the Texas Automotive Writers Association includes us in two annual events, the spring Auto Roundup and the fall Truck Rodeo. During these events we drive a large swath of new vehicles provided by auto manufacturers. And at the end of the event we, very democratically, vote for our favorites in various categories. Of course, the most attention goes to The Car of Texas, named at the Auto Roundup, and the Truck of Texas, voted for at the Truck Rodeo.

In my first year attending the Roundup and Rodeo I was very excited – and a bit apprehensive – in voting for such titles. I was new to this and wanted to really put some thought into what I was voting on. During the first few years I attended, it was emphasized that the Car or Truck of Texas wasn’t just the most expensive, shiny, or fun vehicle you drove that day, but the car or truck you’d recommend to the average Texas consumer. Our word as automotive journalists (or enthusiasts masquerading as journalists) is based on the advice we give to consumers, so I always set a high bar and give a lot of thought before recommending vehicles to people.

This brings me to our event categories and voting, and eventually the winners of these awards. We at txGarage have been dissatisfied with these results so much in the past that we took it upon ourselves to name our own car, truck, and SUV of the Year.

Let me start off with the events themselves. These events are great! Where else do you get the opportunity to spend some time in most of the new vehicles in a category, back-to-back while pushing them to their limits? The events take a lot of orchestrating by the TAWA board and manufacturers, and none of that effort is lost on me. I always enjoy myself at these events and am in no way dissing the people that work so hard to put them on.

One of my biggest areas of frustration comes in the form of categories and voting. Let’s start by looking at the categories for the Auto Roundup. Besides Car of Texas and Family Car of Texas you also get Sub-Compact Car of Texas, Compact Car of Texas, Full-Size Car of Texas, Full-Size Luxury Car of Texas, Green Vehicle of Texas, Mid-Size Car of Texas, Minivan of Texas, Performance Compact Car of Texas, Performance Coupe of Texas, Performance Sedan of Texas, Performance Utility of Texas, Activity Vehicle of Texas, and Supercar of Texas. That’s a lot of categories (which I don’t inherently have a problem with), but they do get a bit confusing. Take (please!) for example the Activity Vehicle category. When I think activity vehicle, I’m thinking Toyota RAV4, Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3 or CX-5. What I’m not thinking is large, 3-row SUVs like the Infiniti QX80. And jumping ahead here (spoiler alert), the QX80 won in this category. I’m not taking anything away from the QX80; if you saw my review you’ll know it wasn’t my favorite vehicle, but if you read David’s review he quite liked it. That’s not really the point I’m making here. My point is that it just seems out of place.

For another example, take a look at the Supercar category. Now I know it takes a lot of teeth pulling to get decent vehicles to show up at these events and I get it, we’re never going to get a large number of supercars to really fill this category out. This year, we had the Mercedes-Benz GT R, a truly great vehicle. The other, and only other, vehicle in this category was the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Again, if you watched my video review of the Trackhawk I absolutely love that vehicle, but to put it in a supercar category alongside the Mercedes GT R? It just doesn’t make sense to me, and from talking with some of you guys, our readers, it doesn’t make much sense to you, either.

To add to the confusion, while you have the Trackhawk being listed as a supercar, you also have a Performance Utility category as well, where the Trackhawk would have easily dominated. One problem though – another contender in that category was the Dodge Durango SRT, which could have split votes with the Trackhawk and could have made it harder for either to have the win. Not that the Durango won that category anyway, but the title still went to FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

There are many other examples I could throw in, but let’s move on to the voting. In the six years I’ve been attending these events the voting has dramatically changed, and for the best. We have electronic voting that’s able to give immediate results, so we know the winners the second the event is over. Again, the TAWA board has done some great work making it easy for us reviewing the vehicles and more informative for manufactures who’ve entered vehicles into our events.

The way our voting goes is like this: We go category by category, rating vehicles on things like value, personal appeal, performance, interior, and exterior. We rate each option on a scale of worst in class to best in class. Then an algorithm takes over, one we don’t really know much about, and concludes in a winner. This is how we get winners in categories like Compact Car or Full-Size Car of Texas and, for the most part, I think this works out well for those categories. If I have issues there, it usually boils down to the categories seeming to be structured badly. Like anything else though, you can game the system if you have a clear favorite and you don’t care about actually rating the vehicles based on the options presented. Also, again, we don’t know what the algorithm looks like and what it gives more weight to in voting.

Categories like Car of Texas, Family Car of Texas, Truck of Texas and so forth have a more democratic process. Here you’re given a list of all the vehicles participating and made to choose one. During the voting there’s no clear instructions on how we’re supposed to be rating these categories – we just pick. It’s this process that I have more of a problem with overall, and think it leads to much of my issues with the results that come out of these events.

I think Car or Truck of Texas should take a bit more thought, effort, and consensus among the members. I’d love to see something more like a debate or straw-poll that you see in political primaries. Pick a vehicle you think should win and stand in a corner with others who liked that vehicle. Then talk, debate, and try to convince others in the room why your choice is correct. After each group is able to express their points the members should regroup based on if they were swayed by anyone’s opinion. This should continue till one vehicle has a majority of the room. Not only would this allow more members to understand the arguments for a specific winner, I think it would make our outright winners better choices for what the title deserves.

To wrap it up, I wanted to reiterate here that I do like attending these events and enjoy chatting with all the people involved, and I know the people that make it all happen work extremely hard to do so. I don’t have all the answers here, and I don’t even have all the information on how these things run behind the scenes, I do know, however, that all too often I’m left scratching my head when seeing the results from these events, and have a hard time putting the txGarage name behind them. I’d love to hear some of our reader feedback on this. And if there are other writers out there that attend similar events where you do it differently, I’d love to hear about that as well. Leave us some feedback down in the comments or on our social media pages, and we’ll try to further this discussion there.

Adam Moore

Adam was one of the founding members of txGarage back in 2007 when he worked for a Suzuki dealership in Dallas, TX. He is now our Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He's always been into cars and trucks and has extensive knowledge on both. Check Adam out on twitter @adamaoc.



  1. Chad Kirchner

    April 24, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Wait, you’re saying we vote for too many awards? I’ve NEVER heard of such a crazy theory. ;)

    • Adam Moore

      Adam Moore

      April 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      lol yeah, one of the issues at hand.

      • Chad Kirchner

        April 24, 2018 at 3:25 pm

        Okay, so a proper reply.

        From my understanding, the manufacturer chooses what category they get to be in. Basically that entry fee gives them that privilege. It’s why some years there’s only one vehicle in a category, which is silly from our perspective. But I get it if you’re FCA you wouldn’t want to put the Trackhawk and Durango SRT in the same category when it could potentially win two.

        No other organization has this many awards. Are they necessary? I don’t know. I go to other events that have just as many vehicles show up where there is only one award. MAMA’s family car of the year prevents anything over $50k from even entering, yet Rolls Royce brought two cars last year.

        • Adam Moore

          Adam Moore

          April 24, 2018 at 3:34 pm

          Yes, I’ve heard manufacturers get to choose the category but I wasn’t sure if it was a real thing. I get the point and I know that’s the game Chevy and GMC played for a while at our Truck Rodeo events.

          That’s interesting about the MAMA event. Does the voting though still go the same way?

          • Chad Kirchner

            April 24, 2018 at 5:26 pm

            We just choose a top 3 out of the eligible entries. The winner then wins.

          • Chad Kirchner

            April 24, 2018 at 5:27 pm

            It takes me approximately 60 seconds to vote.

          • Adam Moore

            Adam Moore

            April 24, 2018 at 6:18 pm

            Sounds nice, at the same time I like my idea of doing a straw poll.

  2. David Goodspeed

    April 24, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Does the algorithm include how much money a certain automaker has invested into the event??? Should not be any “secrets” in what should be an open organization. But with so many category winners the automakers can better utilize these awards in their respective marketing should they choose. After all, the money they spend it what gets you such nice events.

    • Adam Moore

      Adam Moore

      April 24, 2018 at 6:18 pm

      I would doubt there is anything in there that gives preference to big spenders… but it’s not open so I guess it’s an open question?

  3. Pingback: Gripes? Yeah, with the TAWA Awards we’ve got gripes – CIC

  4. David Goodspeed

    April 25, 2018 at 7:43 am

    When this event first began there weren’t even any awards, just “impressions” and those were handed out by mostly journalists. I like your idea about the “debate” but I feel only a few will speak…LOUDLY…and the others will just follow suit. You do need the voters to be confident, independent, and knowledgable in their decisions.

  5. Michael Marrs

    May 8, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    Adam, a few points that I hope will answer some questions. Keep in mind, the objective of the event is to provide vehicles to drive for those of us that are not on the mainstream press list. It is a place, using me as an example, that I can drive an AMG caliber of vehicle that I don’t otherwise get to. I can then use that experience for content development, get some facetime with that OEM, and even generate a few smiles while I do it. With that in mind, when the OEM registers a vehicle, they do get to indicate which category they think the vehicle belongs in. That registration is reviewed, and that often results in several emails and phone calls to reach an agreement which may be a compromise. As to a category with a single entry, one of the rules is for that not to happen, however, there are exceptions. For example, a category with two entries has one withdraw last minute for mechanical reasons leaving one, which we will let stand so as to allow members the chance to drive that vehicle. As to the voting, yes there is an algorithm developed by some Rice Students way over my head, but it does not involve money spent or other data not specifically input by voters. There are some calculations to reduce gaming the system that was discovered in the old manual voting process, but otherwise, it is pretty straight forward math. Sorry to be so long, but hope this clears a few things up.

    • Adam Moore

      Adam Moore

      May 8, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      Absolutely, thanks, Michael. I would still argue that if the objective of the event is to drive cars you wouldn’t normally get to drive or get a lot of material out of 1 event, then that places less value on the awards themselves. And the award process is what I have more of a beef with, not the event. Again, I’m not trying to flip a table over here, just contributing to the conversation online, as it’s happening offline for sure.

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