And The 2009 North American Car and Truck of the Year Finalists Are…
Those of you who follow the auto industry like we do have become somewhat jaded to the sense of drama about these “…Of The Year” awards, in part because they happen every year (I know, right?), and also because many times they’re a bit of a snore. The casual observer can see plenty of conflicts of interest in the decision making process for “OTY” awards at a fistful of magazines, and not just automotive ones, either.
That’s really too bad, because perhaps one of the better annual awards, the North American Car/Truck of the Year, unveiled annually at the Detroit Show, seems to go largely unnoticed. The jury is comprised of no less than 50 international automotive journalists at any one time, who are invited to contribute based upon their breadth of knowledge and length of time covering the auto industry. The funds to cover the Awards come from membership dues only, to avoid outside influence. What I’m trying to say is, if I had to pick one “Of The Year” award each year, the North American Car/Truck Of The Year would get my Car Of The Year Award Of The Year… award.
Anyway, enough about them. The real story here is that we have a very interesting mix of vehicles on the table this year, with some clear winners, but also some surprises.
Among the Truck candidates, the Dodge Ram, Ford F-150 and Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC, the freshly redesigned F-150 looks to have a secure lock on the trophy, given its tremendous advancements in technology and feature content, and its gob-smacking reviews (this one from Dan Neil being a good indication). That’s not to say the completely redesigned Ram is chopped liver at all, though, and the ML320 carries the first diesel engine to be represented in a NATOTY final vote.
Car Of The Year is a bit less cut-and-dried. The finalists include the Ford Flex, Hyundai Genesis and Volkswagen Jetta TDI. This one is a bit tougher to suss out, although I bet the Genesis will get the nod, being a farther step forward than the Flex and certainly the Jetta Diesel. Although the TDI represents the first diesel to make COTY honors, and the first true 50-state diesel VW’s been able to offer, they’ve had three generations and several years to make the Jetta TDI the hotly desired car that it is today. The Flex, in every possible contrast, is a fresh and dynamic vehicle that just happened to arrive at exactly the wrong time; I wonder what the “Of The Year” awards would have looked like in 2005 had the Flex arrived at dealerships then.
Earlier this December, each judge was presented with a ballot in which they have 25 points to spread around the different contenders, in which a maximum of 10 points can be allotted toward any one vehicle, and the rest go toward others on the list. Jurors must dispense all 25 points on the ballot, though, to encourage a spread of winning votes, which were then sent securely to that most fabulous of tabulators (tabulous of fabulators?), Deloitte & Touche–more specifically, one Michelle Collins, D&T’s Vice Chairwoman Automotive.
Feel free to practice your deep-breathing techniques until January 11th, when the winners are unveiled in Detroit.
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