It's "…of the Year" Time Again

It's "…of the Year" Time Again

It's November, which means it must be that time again; you know — "…of the Year" time. Right now there are over 25 major publications announcing which vehicles are the vehicles for 2005. And that number just relates to the North American car market. Include Europe and Asia in the count and you've got over 100 entities happy to tell you which car and/or truck to pay special attention to in 2005. is no different. Since 1999 we've been identifying our favorite vehicles in over two-dozen categories. Our Most Wanted awards are pretty thorough as they target every major market segment (27 as of 2005). There's also our Most Significant Vehicle of the Year award, which can be a vehicle from any of these segments. Now that the press releases have been issued and the presentations given, I can deliver the not-so-breaking news that our Most Significant Vehicle of the Year for 2005 is the Chrysler 300.

Anyone who follows Carmudgeon can't be too surprised, as I dedicated an entire column to the Chrysler 300 back in August. At that time I called the 300 a Chrysler equivalent to the Cadillac Escalade. This didn't just refer to the Chrysler's edgy styling and powerful V8 engine (though those are key elements to its success). The real point is that the 300 has changed the automaker's image in the eyes of customers who had never considered a Chrysler product before (many of them under the age of 35). It's also seen by many as the first modern sedan that is truly representative of the classic American car: large dimensions, flashy styling, rear-wheel drive, powerful V8 engine. These were the automotive trademarks of post-World War II America, but they've been largely absent ever since the first gas crunch of the early 1970s. Ironically, we seem to be in the midst of yet another gas crisis, at least in terms of rising prices (no long lines at gas stations…yet). But the 300 is selling faster than Chrysler can build them — yet another validation of this being a significant vehicle.

However, the real excitement for me this year is that beyond the Most Significant voting, I have the privilege of playing a role in yet another major "…of the Year" announcement. I was recently invited onto the "North American Car and Truck of the Year" jury, which is made up of 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. What I like most about this award is that the group of auto writers on the jury has no affiliation with any publication or corporation. The member body includes writers from major automotive magazines, newspapers and Web sites, along with broadcast journalists from radio and television. Yet, the funding for the jury comes solely from member dues, meaning there are no ties (or obligations) to any single entity.

And unlike the rest of these awards, the North American Car and Truck of the Year winners aren't announced until the opening press day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This year that day falls on January 9th, but for those who can't attend the press days in Detroit, we'll report the winners on as soon as they are announced. Last year's winners were the Toyota Prius (car) and Ford F-150 (truck). The year before that it was the Mini Cooper and Volvo XC90 (the Volvo is considered a truck). In the first year for the award, 1994, it went to the Mercedes C-Class and Dodge Ram. As you can probably tell, these cars and trucks have all been important (some might even say significant) models in the recent history of the American automotive market.

Which car and truck will win in 2005? I can't say, as my vote is only one in 49. But as I've explained in two recent editorials, the Chrysler 300 has plenty going for it on the car side. On the truck side, there are so many all-new models (Tacoma, Frontier, Dakota, Durango, Grand Cherokee, LR3, F-Series Super Duty, to name just a few), that it's going to be a wide-open race.

Below is the full list of candidates for the 2005 North American Car and Truck of the Year. To qualify for consideration, a vehicle must be all new or substantially revised from its previous year. Finalists will be announced in early December, and we'll report on that stage of the process as well.

In the meantime, feel free to refer to our Most Wanted winners when conducting your own search for the best car or truck in any of the 27 different categories. Speaking from my own biased perspective, you'll not find a more comprehensive "…of the Year" listing anywhere else.

2005 North American Car of the Year candidates:

Acura RL
Audi A6
BMW 6 Series
Buick LaCrosse
Cadillac STS
Chevrolet Cobalt
Chevrolet Corvette
Chrysler 300/
Dodge Magnum
Ford Five Hundred
Ford Mustang
Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda Odyssey
Pontiac G6
Porsche 911
Scion tC
Subaru Legacy
Volvo S40/ V50

2005 North American Truck of the Year candidates:

Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Dakota
Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Freestyle
Ford F-Series Super Duty
Hyundai Tucson
Infiniti QX56
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Land Rover LR3
Nissan Frontier
Nissan Pathfinder
Toyota Tacoma

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