Test drives define the motoring news beat, and credentials for these are earned from each and every carmaker, separately. Access isn’t granted wholesale but comes only after being vetted by individual vendors, one by one, case to case.

While having credentials from other brands does help in getting new ones, there’s no protocol that makes this procedural, not for lend-outs that expose both media outlets and automotive companies to significant risk. End of the day, press access for test-drives is a privilege, a facility made available only by carmakers’ prerogative.

But when carmakers do grant credentials, these signify even more. Test drive access make implicit how the credentialed are recognized as having both the credibility and accountability to hold the public’s trust.

So, although you might imagine some actuarial calculations and game theory coming into play, or enforcement of some risk management that renders things clinical, at the end of the day, these test-drive credentials essentially speak of character.

It is that character that I perceive behind CAGI, the Car Awards Group, Inc.. The non-profit, non-stock organization was founded thirteen years ago by motoring journalists who had pooled their credentials to take on a daunting task. Back when automotives weren’t the buyer’s market that it is now, when the imperative to do so was more difficult and therefore more palpable, they had set out to evaluate a fair sampling of vehicles; to identify the exemplary ones in a multitude of categories.

They pooled their pull, so to speak, to muster the clout for a car awards program independent from any single publication, and back when a seller’s market made journalistic scrutiny more compelling but also more difficult. In my book, that’s journalism on a mission.

Now, more than a decade down the road, CAGI has already widened its scope to recognizing models under both their Car of the Year (COTY) and Truck of the Year (TOTY) programs, and they are looking to make the public more aware of their stringent testing process while also, and deliberately, disseminating their test findings back to carmakers through talks with their dealerships. And, the expertise they’ve earned getting to this point they now reinvest in a proposed Motorcycle of the Year (MOTY) program that’s so far taken three years in the planning.

By founding CAGI, its members chose not to coast with their hard-earned, individual test-drive credentials, pooling these instead to answer buyers’ questions from a place not bound to any single publication. Now, thirteen years later, they’re still those geeky boy-scouts. God bless ‘em.

DISCLOSURE: This commentary by Gelzon de la Cruz is presented as preamble to the CAGI press release published below, the posting of which goes towards Mr. de la Cruz’s application for active membership in the organization. With this report, Mr. de la Cruz (formerly of C! Magazine, now with Real World Drive online and Wheels & Gears magazine in print, separately) figures to hit two birds with one stone—forward his application to CAGI, and explain why it matters.

Press Statement by Car Awards Group, Inc. (CAGI), “CAGI Holds First 2017 General Assembly; Lays Out Road Map,” 2017:

Car Awards Group, Inc. (CAGI), a non-profit, non-stock thirteen-year organization held its first-ever general assembly for its current and aspiring members at Seared, a newly-opened steakhouse restaurant at Ortigas Home Depot in Pasig City.


The event, with about thirty attendees, served to fire up the institution’s road map this year.

“For 2017, aside from the usual launch, test fest and awards night, we also plan to further raise more public awareness of the group’s unique and stringent award-giving process,” said newly-elected CAGI president Ronald de los Reyes during their short presentation.

“We want everyone to further realize how esteemed the awards are. The group is also looking forward to reaching and expanding to a much bigger market, “he added.

According to CAGI, the planned activities for this year’s season are: talks in various dealerships, public demonstration tests, fellowship nights and a number of displays in prominent car shows, such as: the Manila International Auto Show, Manila Auto Salon and the Transport Show.

The affair also served as the venue to start the ball rolling for the much-anticipated quest for the Motorcycle of the Year, which is now on its third year of planning and development. The said endeavor is set to test the mettle of CAGI, which for years has already established a strong reputation as a reputable and credible award-giving body.

“We believe that it’s about time that we also give due recognition to our fellow two-wheeled contemporaries on the road,” de los Reyes averred.

The newly-elected officers were also introduced during the meeting. They are: president- Ronald de los Reyes (Auto Review, Business Mirror and Carmudi Magazine), vice president- Joel Quinto (Ignition.ph), corporate secretary- Andy Rodriguez (2ner Magazine), treasurer- Novelyn Quiamco (2ner Magazine) and technical director- Niky Tamayo (Topgear Magazine).