Chevrolet Volt, Ford Explorer Win Car, Truck AwardsBy Michelle Krebs January 10, 2011
Jurors praised the Volt as a technological tour de force as an extremely sophisticated bridge between current hybrids and all-electric vehicles.
The Volt beat the Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Leaf. All three finalists for the North American Car of the Year award come in some version of electrification: the Volt is electric driven with a gasoline engine to extend range; the Sonata comes in a hybrid version; and the Leaf is all electric.
The Explorer beat the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango sport utilities from Chrysler, which emerged from near death through bankruptcy, to this year having two of the three finalists.
The awards are unique in the United States because -- instead of being given by a single media outlet -- they are awarded by automotive journalists from the United States and Canada who represent magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites.
The jury of 49 comprises a wide range of professional journalists across North America who report on cars and the auto industry. Among the 49 jurors from Edmunds.com are: Scott Oldham, Edmunds.com editor-in-chief; Karl Brauer, Edmunds senior analyst and editor at large; and Michelle Krebs, senior analyst and AutoObserver editor-in-chief. Brauer served as the emcee for award presentation.
The Chevrolet Volt's win marks the fourth time General Motors has won the North American Car of the Year. Most recently, the Chevrolet Malibu was the 2008 North American Car of the Year.
Ford Explorer's win marks the seventh time a Ford has been the North American Truck of the Year. Ford has dominated the truck category. Last year, Ford swept the awards with the Ford Transit Connect winning the truck category and Ford Fusion, including its hybrid version, taking the car honors.
Initially, 27 new cars were eligible for the 2011 North American Car of the Year award. Early this fall, jurors voted on those they thought deserved additional consideration or what is known as the "short list." That narrowed the field to 14 semi-finalist cars, which were on the December ballot.
General Motors and Nissan each had three models on the short list. There were four European models, four domestic and four from Japan. Two were from Korea.
2011 North American Car of the Year Short List
(Finalists in bold)
In the fall, jurors did not vote on the trucks because there were only 14 and it did not seem necessary to narrow the field from that original list. The Truck of the Year short list represented a wide assortment of truck-like vehicles, from small crossovers to minivans to big SUVs, but no pickup trucks.
North American Truck of the Year Short List
Jeep Grand Cherokee
(Finalists in bold)
In the recently held round of voting, each journalist-juror dispersed 25 points to the various candidates in the two categories. Jurors could give a maximum of 10 points to one vehicle in each category, but no other vehicle could receive more than nine of those points.
In the final round of voting, jurors dispersed 10 points to the three finalists in each category. Chevrolet Volt received 233 votes, the Sonata 103 and Leaf 94. On the truck side, the Explorer took 253 votes, the Grand Cherokee 138 and the Durango 99.
History of the Awards
Established in 1994, the NACTOY awards honor vehicles that set new standards or become new benchmarks in their class. Each vehicle is judged and ranked by various categories. Those include general design, safety, fuel economy, handling and general roadworthiness, performance, comfort, assembly quality, functionality, technical innovation, driver satisfaction and price. Value for the dollar and affordability are particularly important factors.
The awards are funded exclusively by the jurors. During its 18 years of existence:
Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year nine times. European automakers have won four times, Japanese automakers have won three times. A Korean automaker has won once.
Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 11 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won twice.
Michelle Krebs is a long-time juror on the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.