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SGMW New Year Honours 2022: Clever new ways to motor ahead in this difficult Covid

The exciting search is on to find the star cars and winning motoring PRs who have gone the extra mile by gearing up to react to Covid restrictions and reinvent the way we go about our business.

The Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ New Year Honours, now in their fifth year, are an even more important indicator of who is on the road to success.

The first motoring writers’ awards of the year are also getting back to the new normal in this strange Covid-hit world with members getting back to vehicle launches, driving days and longer-term test drives.

Members also enjoyed an important fact-finding get-together at SMMT Test Day South, which returned to the motoring calendar after the previous year’s cancellation. They were able to drive many cars contesting for awards, either for the first time or reacquaint themselves, and enjoy back-to-back tests to really compare them properly.

The SGMW is also back on the right track with its annual summer Heritage Day at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Christmas lunch resuming this year. The annual Karting Grand Prix unfortunately had to be cancelled in spring but will return next spring and the date will be revealed soon.

And much-missed quarterly breakfast gatherings are back on the menu after months of online meetings and cheese and wine socials.

SGMW chairman Ian Robertson said: “The motoring world is finally getting back to some sense of normality, even if normal is not what it used to be, so honouring the cars and PR stars with our hotly-contested, highly-revered awards has even more relevance this year.

“After a difficult start, the Covid crisis has shown how the forward-thinking manufacturers and press offices can operate in a different way, yet still deliver a top-notch service.

Lockdowns, restrictions and a gradual return to a form of freedom have made everybody – writers and PR and events teams – look at how they do things. Adapting to the changing situation proved that you don’t have to all be sitting in an office with everyone else in order to perform.

The PRs have had to think outside the box, considering a raft of new measures to comply with Covid rules, and reinvent the way they do model reveals, launches and driving days and all kinds of events we all took for granted.”

So it is very fitting that five of our eight awards are awarded to the people who make things happen, either individually or as part of slick teams.

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining and Covid has really helped move the thinking forward to make things happen. And, in some cases, it has been for the better, saving everyone time and travelling in this busy, increasingly eco-friendly world.

The winners of the eight tightly-fought categories, voted for by SGMW members, will be announced on January 1st as the group’s New Year Honours list 2022.

Here’s a reminder of the awards up for grabs, plus a reminder of last year’s winners and runners-up:

Best PR Newcomer – awarded to someone who made a special impact in liaising with the media during the past year and is either new to the industry PR scene or has taken on a new role/position.

  • Winner: Mike Arnold (press fleet manager, PSA)
  • Runner-up: Chloe Yemm (press relations manager, FCA)

The SGMW OBE (Operating Beyond Expectation) – for acting above and beyond the call of PR duty during the past year. It can be for consistent high performance, a memorable one-off effort, or a thoughtful gesture towards one of our members caught in a bind.

  • Winner: Erica Haddon (manager, PR operations, Toyota)
  • Runner-up: Simon Branney (head of PR, Honda)

Best PR Office – awarded to the operation consistently delivering the best all-round or forward-thinking service to SGMW throughout the year.

  • Winner: Suzuki
  • Joint runners-up: Honda and Citroën

Best in PR Innovation – awarded for an unusual or particularly excellent launch, driving route, or any imaginative addition to an event of the PR year in general.

  • Winner: BMW Group
  • Joint runners-up: Suzuki and Honda

Dark Horse of the Year – a car that surprised SGMW members, either by its arrival or just how good it was.

  • Winner: Toyota GR Yaris
  • Runner-up: Polestar 2

One to Watch 2022 – the car that SGMW members most look forward to driving in the coming year.

  • Winner: FIAT 500e
  • Runner-up: Ford Mustang Mach-E

SGMW Car of the Year

  • Winner: Honda e
  • Runner-up: Peugeot 208

SGMW Southern Star – for the group member who has done most for the organisation or its profile or done something praiseworthy or beyond the call of duty.

  • Winner: Ian Robertson

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