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Detroit Auto Show: All You Need to Know

Press Preview ends today; show opens to public on Saturday.

by on Jan.14, 2013

The press previews are over but there’s still a lot more news to come from the 2013 North American International Auto Show and will continue bringing you the latest product news, concept close-ups and interviews with the industry newsmakers down at Cobo Hall.

Stay with for our latest updates:

Cadillac ATS, Ram 1500 Named North American Car, Truck of the Year

Detroit makers sweep 20th anniversary NACTOY awards.

by on Jan.14, 2013

General Manager Fred Diaz with the Ram 1500.

Detroit makers dominated as the 2013 Detroit Auto Show opened up with the annual North American International Car and Truck of the Year awards.

Cadillac claimed the coveted Car of the Year trophy with its new 2013 ATS compact luxury sedan, the new Ram 1500 pickup was honored in the truck/utility category.

“I need someone to come up here and pinch me to make sure that has really happened,” declared Fred Diaz, Ram’s general manager, as he climbed the stage to collect the trophy.  The award was all the sweeter, he proclaimed, considering that parent Chrysler was bankrupt and written off for dead, by many, just a few years ago.

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But the same could have been said for General Motors which, like Chrysler, emerged from Chapter 11 in mid-2009 only with the help of a federal bailout that continues to generate controversy.  That, GM officials, have said, is why it’s so important to get third-party endorsements for vehicles like the ATS.


Jurors Name North American Car, Truck of the Year Finalists

Chrysler, Mazda, Cadillac, Honda make list; Ford lands two.

by on Dec.12, 2012

The C-Max is one of two Ford products up for North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards.

Ford Motor Co. is in the rare position where it could land both the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year. The maker’s new Fusion sedan and C-Max “people mover” were among the six finalists named today by the 49-member NACTOY jury.

Also on the list are the Cadillac ATS luxury sedan and Honda Accord sedan in the car category, and the Ram 1500 and Mazda CX-5 crossover in the Truck/Utility category.  If Ford were to score in both categories, it would be only the third time in the 20 years of the widely-followed award that a single maker won both Car and Truck honors.

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But Ford won’t have a cakewalk, stressed Lindsay Brooke, a member of the NACTOY organizing committee.  “These candidates,” he declared during a Detroit Automotive Press Association luncheon called to announce the finalists, “they’re all knock-outs. Many jurors have said it’s the toughest year.”


Marty’s Marketing Minutia – Winners & Losers Edition

Our marketing maven's take on COTY and NASCAR

by on Nov.16, 2012

Hyundai execs celebrate last year's win for North American Car of the Year.

Among the harbingers of Fall are the pernickety Car of the Year Awards (aka COTY) presented in numerous vehicle categories by enthusiast magazines, auto websites, various syndicated columnists and, well, it seems like almost everyone weighs in these days.

Many winners are so surprised their agencies have barely time to simultaneously release multi-page-ads in consumer and trade publications and duly note their accolade in TV spots. Not that there was any advance notice of course.

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Then there is the most prestigious COTY award – make that North American Car and Truck of the Year awards — presented during the Detroit Auto show, an event that has justifiably become known as the most prestigious and credible of the breed considering the winners are chosen by a group of 50 independent U.S. and Canadian auto writers.


Finalists for North American Car, Truck of the Year Revealed

Detroit lands no finalists in truck category for first time.

by on Dec.15, 2011

Land Rover lands a finalist with the Range Rover Evoque - which goes up against the Honda CR-V and BMW X3.

For the first time ever there will be no Detroit entries among the finalists for North American Truck of the Year – and only one domestic among the Car of the Year finalists.

The all-new Range Rover Evoque, updated Honda CR-V and second-generation BMW X3 grabbed the three top spots among many new truck models tested by the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury – which consists of 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada.

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The finalists in the car category include Ford Motor Co.’s new “world car,” the Focus, Hyundai’s restyled Elantra and the latest-generation Volkswagen Passat, the first model to roll out of the German maker’s new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Chevy Volt, Ford Explorer Named N.A. Car, Truck of the Year

Two winners underscore dramatic shifts underway in auto industry.

by on Jan.10, 2011

The Chevy Volt claims North American Car of the Year honors, further enhancing its reputation.

It was a virtual slam dunk for the two winners in this year’s North American Car and Truck of the Year balloting, both of which handily outscored their otherwise well-received competitors for the coveted trophies.

Chevrolet Volt overwhelmed both the Hyundai Sonata and the Nissan Leaf, collecting N.A. Car of the Year honors; while the Ford Explorer was named Truck of the Year, pulling more votes than both of its competitors – the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango – combined.

The 2011 NACTOY race was especially notable for highlighting some of the most dramatic shifts to sweep through the auto industry in decades. On the car side, the plug-in hybrid Volt and battery-electric Leaf are ushering in a new era dubbed the “electrification” of the automobile.  Even the Sonata now offers a more conventional hybrid version, one reason it landed as one of the finalists, according to NACTOY jurors.

On the truck side, all three entrants were, to be precise, not quite trucks, instead migrating from standard body-on-frame platforms to more fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive car-based crossover platforms.

“Our challenge,” in developing Explorer was “reinventing the SUV for the 21st Century, said Ford’s President of the Americas Mark Fields.

Ford "reinvented the SUV for the 21st Century," declared President Mark Fields.

The Explorer might have given up a wee bit of its extreme off-road capabilities, but jurors felt it more than made up for that by improving features, like fuel economy, ride and comfort, that most buyers care about.

Volt’s win on the car side is the latest in a series of victories for the new battery-based sedan.  It was also named Green Car of the Year, as well as Motor Trend Car of the Year, but General Motors officials saw the latest trophy as a particular victory considering the breadth of U.S. and Canadian media that the 49 NACTOY jurors represent.

“This is the essence of the new General Motors,” proclaimed the maker’s product and technology czar, Tom Stephens, clearly emotional as he leapt up to claim the acrylic trophy.  It was an undisguised reference to the dramatic changes that have swept through the company since its 2009 bankruptcy.  Stephens said Volt’s success was all the more dramatic considering the project very well could have been scrapped in the bid to save GM.

Ironically, GM had, until recently, often been derided by critics as being an obstacle to the switch to cleaner automotive powertrain technology.  Now it is one of its most active proponents.

“The electrification of the automobile, from my standpoint, is not a fad,” declared Stephens.  “It is here to stay.”

Volt’s victory over the Nissan Leaf does, in some ways, reflect the continuing skepticism about battery power, however.  The GM offering, while not a pure battery-electric vehicle, also does not succumb to the limited range issues of a pure BEV.  Now, with the latest endorsement, GM is hoping it will be able to push Volt into a more mainstream market.

This is the fourth time in the 18 years of NACTOY that GM has won car of the year honors, the last being for its Chevrolet Malibu.

Ford, meanwhile, has taken truck honors seven times, most recently in 2010 with its Transit Connect van.  Ford, in fact, swept the NACTOY balloting last year, also winning the car award with its Fusion Hybrid.

2011 Chevrolet Volt Wins Twin Car of the Year Awards

Key endorsements for the plug-in which is also a strong contender for North American Car of the Year.

by on Nov.16, 2010

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is shown at the GM wind tunnel - along with the Motor Trend Car of the Year trophy.

The trophy wars are just getting underway, but the 2011 Chevrolet Volt has already landed two key victories, winning the high-profile designation of Motor Trend Car of the Year, as well as the Car of the Year award from rival Automobile magazine.

The awards are the latest kudos for General Motors plug-in hybrid, and help overcome some of the stigma that arose shortly after Volt formal launch, last month, when GM officials acknowledged they had misled the media about the technology used to drive the battery-based vehicle.

Originally billed as an “extended-range electric vehicle,” or E-REV, which always uses electric power to drive its wheels, it turns out that the Chevy Volt occasionally relies on a direct mechanical assist from its backup 1.4-liter gasoline engine.  Nonetheless, Motor Trend editors declared the 2011 model one of the most significant vehicles ever tested during the 61-year history of the magazine’s influential Car of the Year award.

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“The Volt has some of the most advanced engineering ever seen on an American production car,” declared MT Editor Angus McKenzie.  The magazine also suggested that while it originally expected “a science experiment,” the 2011 Chevrolet Volt was more like “a moon shot.”

Formal production of the Volt has just begun, with sales beginning before year-end.  Originally intended to deliver 40 miles on a charge of its 16 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries, Chevy has since revised its forecast, offering a range of 25 to 50 miles.

That reflects the fact that battery-powered vehicles are sensitive to a variety of environmental and personal driving factors.  An aggressive driver, stuck in Michigan traffic on a cold day, will likely see battery range drop to the lower factor, while someone cruising through the exurbs of Los Angeles, with minimal traffic and the climate control turned off, could get 50 miles.

Once the battery runs down, Volt is designed to keep running, unlike a pure battery-electric vehicle, the 1.4-liter I4 engine taking over.  The controversy arose over an engineering decision to let the internal combustion engine connect directly to the driveline under some demanding conditions, rather than solely act as an electric generator.

Nonetheless, reviews of the Volt – including those on (Click Here to read) have been almost universally enthusiastic.

While there were a number of key competitors considered for the Motor Trend and Automobile magazine awards, the most likely alternative was considered to be another new battery-based vehicle, the pure electric-powered 2011 Nissan Leaf.

Though GM and Nissan have insisted they are not direct competitors, each targeting a somewhat different kind of buyer, company insiders have occasionally taken shots at each other’s approach.  But they’ve also acknowledged that it’s in the industry’s best interest for both products to succeed if consumers are to begin accepting the nascent battery-electric offerings.

By some counts, there could be as many as three dozen plug-in hybrids, E-REVs and BEVs on the market by mid-decade. (Ford announces roll-out plants for the Focus Electric. Click Here for more.) A number of new offerings will, in fact, make their debut at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, including a battery-powered Toyota RAV4-EV.  (Click Here to learn more.)

The Leaf and Volt will likely face off again in less than two months when arguably one of the most widely-respected automotive awards is announced, the North American Car of The Year.  Both models are on the list of semi-finalists and an informal poll of the 50 jurors (editor’s note: including Publisher Paul A. Eisenstein) shows the two favored to be among the three finalists.  The NACOTY winner will be announced during the opening of the Detroit Auto Show, in January.

Ford Takes Car, Truck-of-the-Year Awards with Fusion Hybrid, Transit Connect.

Only third sweep by a single maker.

by on Jan.11, 2010

Ford Motor Car and Truck of Year, 2010 NAIAS

The Ford Fusion Hybrid was named the North American Car of the Year today while Ford's Transit Connect picked up Truck of the Year.

For only the third time, a single manufacturer has swept the prestigious North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.  Ford Motor claimed victory in the truck category with its quirky Transit Connect van, while the maker also captured the crystal car trophy with its Fusion Hybrid.

The dual win surprised even members of the 49-man jury considering the tough field both Ford products went up against.  Jurors had to consider 29 different car models available in the U.S. and Canada, along with 16 trucks, before whittling down to the three finalists.

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Along with the Fusion Hybrid, those finalists included the all-new Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen’s diesel-powered Golf TDI.  On the truck side, the Transit Connect faced off against the Chevrolet Equinox crossover and the sporty Subaru Outback.