The awards, announced at the opening ceremonies of this year’s Detroit Auto Show, are being viewed by many as a sign of the dramatic changes sweeping through both the North American and global auto industry.
The Elantra – Hyundai’s second product to win the North American Car of the Year honor in recent years – is a far cry from the maker’s traditional econobox, jurors clearly felt. The Evoque, meanwhile, is the first-ever car-based crossover to come from Britain’s Land Rover, a brand better known for heavy, gas-guzzling truck-based SUVs.
Noting the Evoque is powered by a small 4-cylinder engine, rather than a V-8, Andy Goss, CEO of Jaguar-Land Rover North America, declared the victory truly a sign of the times. It signals the transformation of our industry.”
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, was only slightly less effusive. He noted that the maker has already sold more than 200,000 of the high-mileage compact sedans but added that “it is wonderful to have that validated by the NACTOY jurors.”
The two awards are based on balloting by 50 U.S. and Canadian journalists, an approach NACTOY organizing committee member Tony Swan said, “ensures its independence” by avoiding the sort of editorial – or even advertising – bias that awards presented by some individual media outlets might have.
The winners of the North American Car and North American Truck of the Year can be expected to rapidly play up their victories. Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields describes the award as “a huge marketing opportunity…(which) we definitely use to our advantage.”
Ford was one of the two runners-up in the car category with its 2012 Focus, along with the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat.
The U.S. maker has won seven North American Truck of the Year awards and three North American Car of the Year trophies in the 19 years the awards have been handed out.
Hyundai’s victory with Elantra marks the second time a Korean maker has won on the car side. Detroit’s Big Three have won 10 times, the Japanese taking three awards and Europeans four.
On the truck side, Detroit has won 12 awards, the Japanese four, and Europeans three.