For the first time in the history of the organisation, South Africa has been invited and elected to join the jury that adjudicates the International Pick-up Award. South Africa will be represented by Charleen Clarke, editorial director of FOCUS on Transport & Logistics.
The International Pick-up Award is the world’s leading accolade for producers of one-tonne pick-ups. Every other year since 2009, the International Pick-up Award has been presented to the most efficient 1-tonne pick-up truck in business today.
The pick-ups in contention for the main prize are judged on their commercial merits, plus their capabilities and abilities on and off-road. Former winners of this prestigious biennial title include the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok, with the Ranger and Amarok winning on two occasions over the years.
There are currently 19 editors and journalists on the jury. They represent all the leading European markets. With the addition of South Africa, there are now 20 countries represented on the expert panel.
Jarlath Sweeney, Chairman and founder of the International Pick-up Award, says that there were a number of sound reasons for seeking representation from South Africa on the jury: “Pick-ups – known as bakkies in that country – are extremely popular vehicle derivatives. They are not bought exclusively for commercial use. To the contrary; many pick-ups serve as family cars in South Africa,” he explained.
Such is the popularity of pick-ups in South Africa that one normally tops the list of the most sold vehicles in the country. “When one examines the list of the top 10 vehicles in South Africa in 2021 (when it comes to new vehicle sales), there were four pick-ups on that list. In first position – yet again – was the Toyota Hilux. This came as no surprise; the Hilux has romped home to this position for many years. It also marked Toyota’s 42nd year of overall market leadership in the country. The Toyota Hilux is of course the reigning holder of the International Pick-up Award,” revealed Jarlath.
The three other pick-ups on the list of the top 10 best sellers in South Africa are the Ford Ranger (in third spot), Isuzu D-Max (fifth) and the Nissan NP200 (eighth).
South Africa is also an important market when it comes to the production of pick-ups. Recently, Ford Motor Company announced an investment of US$1.05 billion in its South African manufacturing operations – marking the biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history on the continent. The investment facilitated the production of the next-generation Ranger, which commenced in November 2022. Numerous other pick-ups are also produced at highly sophisticated plants in the country.
Jarlath added that Charleen Clarke was chosen to represent South Africa on the jury because of her long and illustrious commercial vehicle career in journalism. “She has worked as a motoring and commercial vehicle journalist since 1984, and Clarke has been named South African Motoring Journalist of the Year and also South African Commercial Vehicle Journalist of the Year. She is extremely well travelled, meaning she’s up to date with current global vehicle trends. Plus, she already represents South Africa on two other juries, namely the International Truck of the Year and the Truck Innovation Award. In addition to editing and owning FOCUS magazine, Clarke is also responsible for commercial vehicle content for autotrader.co.za. As such, she reaches a large and growing audience,” he noted.
He also mentioned that, with the award being international, it is cause for celebration that the International Pick-up Award has now extended its tentacles into this important pick-up market.
“Every two years, the jury members meet somewhere in the world to evaluate contenders for the award. Next year, we will meet in Athens, Greece, from 16 to 19 October 2023. Over this period, we will put the world’s finest pick-ups through their paces. We are delighted that Charleen will join this group test exercise. And who knows? Maybe, at some time in the future, we will do our testing in South Africa!” Jarlath concluded.