And so the countdown begins. After a nearly year-long trial by fire, nine cars, trucks and utility vehicles have risen almost to the top as the finalists for North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year were revealed during a ceremony at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday morning.
Honda scored twice, nabbing honors in both the car and utility vehicle categories with its Accord and Odyssey models. The Japanese automaker is one of only a handful of manufacturers to score two final wins from NACTOY. Ford, meanwhile, has two finalists in the truck category, one wearing the Lincoln badge.
Now in its 24th year, NACTOY is widely considered one of the most credible automotive awards programs as it is based on the judgement and votes of 60 U.S. and Canadian journalists who will have, this year, compared nearly 100 all-new or significantly refreshed models.
This year is, meanwhile, the second time NACTOY has divided entries into three categories last year having split the heavy-duty side of the showroom into Trucks and Utility vehicles.
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The finalists in the Car category are:
- The Honda Accord, the latest iteration of the Japanese maker’s long-popular midsize sedan;
- The Kia Stinger, the well-reviewed new sports sedan from a Korean carmaker once better known for its econocars; and
- The Toyota Camry, like the Accord a perennial top-seller in the U.S. market and completely updated for the new model-year.
The renamed Utility Vehicle awards are likely to draw far more attention this year considering the explosive surge in demand on the light truck side of the market.
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Also significant, the inclusion of a first-time entry from a manufacturer that only recently returned to the U.S. after a decades-long absence:
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio has been heralded for offering performance car character in a sport-ute body;
- The Honda Odyssey has been the market’s top-selling minivan in recent years and the all-new model ups its game;
- The Volvo XC60 aims to repeat the win of the Swedish automaker’s XC90, offering many of the same features in a smaller body.
On the truck side, Ford is positioned as the one to beat:
- The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 helped Chevy land its only finalist this year with the rugged off-road version of its compact pickup;
- The Ford Expedition landed in the Truck category because of its classic, body-on-frame design, upping the game for a model that gone long without a real update;
- The Lincoln Navigator was nearly abandoned by Ford and got only a cursory update a couple years ago but the all-new model puts it back in its game.
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The winners in the three NACTOY categories will be announced during the opening ceremonies of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January.