It’s down to nine. From an initial list of nearly 100 passenger car and light truck models, the 60 journalist members of the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year jury have narrowed things down with the announcement of the three finalists in each of those three categories today.
A number of the finalists were widely expected to make the cut, which was revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show media preview, but there were a few surprises. Among other things, both Honda and Hyundai landed two models in contention.
But even more notable was the fact that two of the three finalists for Utility Vehicle of the Year are all-electric. In fact, the nine include quite a few “electrified” models, ranging from the mild-hybrid Ram 1500 pickup to the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace, signaling the way battery technology is rapidly moving from niche to mainstream.
The Car of the Year category tends to draw the big headlines and, as the NACTOY jurors’ choices were revealed for the 25th time that is likely to remain the case – even though passenger cars now comprise a declining share of the U.S. automotive market.
(TheDetroitBureau.com got some time behind the wheel of the Volvo S60. Click Here for our impressions.)
“Sedans are still a very important category for manufacturers,” stressed Lauren Fix, NACTOY president, as she announced the three finalists:
- The Volvo S60, which will be offered with a plug-in hybrid “Twin-Engine” as its most powerful version;
- The third-generation Honda Insight, the latest model to carry the name originally used on the very first hybrid to go on sale in the U.S.; and
- The Genesis G70, a Korean sports compact that is taking aim at the vaunted BMW 3-Series – and which just yesterday was named Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Light truck sales have been building for decades, though it’s really only been since the end of the Great Recession that they’ve come to dominate the market.
(Click Here for more about the Genesis G70 winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.)
Today, “Full-size trucks are the financial engine of America, and are arguably what this country does best,” said Chris Paukert, NACTOY Vice President, as he revealed the truck winners – which actually were preordained, with only three new models in that category to begin with. They include:
- The Chevrolet Silverado 1500, the complete makeover of the bowtie brand’s full-size offering;
- The GMC Sierra, the upscale brand’s take on the same platform, this year boasting more differentiation from the mainstream Chevy; and
- The Ram 1500, the full-size pickup that landed honors as Motor Trend Truck of the Year earlier in the week – and which uses a new, 48-volt mild hybrid system.
If trucks helped build and keep American going, however, “SUVs are the financial engine of the industry,” said NACTOY Treasurer Kirk Bell, collectively ringing up about half of all new vehicle sales.
Among a broad category of contenders, the chosen three finalists are:
- The third-generation Acura RDX, now the best-selling vehicle in the compact luxury SUV category and one of the top-selling utes overall;
- The Honda Insight, the three’s-a-charm reincarnation third-gen remake of the first-ever hybrid vehicle in the U.S. market; and
- The Hyundai Kona and the all-electric Kona EV which can deliver almost 240 miles of range per charge.
Notably parent companies Honda and Hyundai each have two models among the finalists, the former with the Insight and Acura RDX, Hyundai with the Kona and the Genesis G70 — the latter the latest entry from the upscale brand spun off several years ago.
(To see more about the Chevrolet Silverado, Click Here.)
Winners of the three NACTOY categories will be revealed during opening ceremonies of the North American International Auto Show in January.