It’s early October, but that’s not too soon to say this has been a very good year for General Motors. All six of the new vehicles GM has introduced so far in 2013 made the short list of contenders for the 2014 North American Car and Truck/Utility Awards.
The Buick Encore, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will all compete for the awards, which will be announced Jan. 13 at the 2014 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.
That’s a quarter of all nominees for the awards, which go by the acronym NACTOY.
No other automaker came close to GM’s performance.
Toyota and Hyundai-Kia have the next highest totals. Each placed three vehicles on the list: the Kia Cadenza and Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe LWB, Lexus IS, Toyota Corolla and Tundra. Eleven automakers placed at least one vehicle among the 12 cars and 12 pickups and utility vehicles.
NACTOY is among the auto industry’s highest profile,most prestigious awards. Its criteria include a vehicle’s value, innovation, significance, overall appeal and more. The awards are presented by about 50 auto writers based in the U.S. and Canada.
I’m one of the jurors. At this point in the process, I have no idea what vehicles will win, or which ones I’ll vote for. When I figure that out, my choices will also be the Detroit Free Press Car and Truck of the Year. We’ll announce them in December.
NACTOY’s awards are 100% supported by jurors’ dues. The selection process starts with a list of every new vehicle that went on sale in the U.S. and Canada this year. From that long list, the jurors pick the vehicles that warrant a closer look. A vehicle must be just about entirely new to qualify. Adding a few features — even a new engine and transmission — or tweaking the looks of an existing model won’t get you NACTOY consideration. That means that vehicles like the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, Ram 1500 diesel and Honda Civic didn’t qualify.
Each juror now has the opportunity to evaluate the contenders again, including an event in Michigan this month where we bring all the vehicles together to drive them back to back and compare notes.
After that, we choose three finalists for each award. They’ll be announced Dec. 10 at an Automotive Press Association meeting in Detroit. The cycle of evaluations resumes then, with jurors getting yet another chance to test finalists before a final vote around year’s end.
Based on the variety of vehicles and manufacturers on the short list, I expect to be surprised by some of the finalists. The contenders are a strong and varied group.
A few things are clear, though:
■ GM’s engineering and design operations are delivering a steady flow of strong vehicles now that the automaker has narrowed its focus to four brands and tapped its resources around the world.
■ Toyota is returning to stride after the credit crisis, an earthquake and floods delayed and disrupted its new model plan.
■ Anybody who thought Hyundai and Kia couldn’t maintain their flow of new models is going to be sorely disappointed.
■ The Jeep Cherokee’s radical new look didn’t bother jurors.
■ Ford didn’t introduce a single NACTOY-eligible vehicle this year, but its sales are up anyway.
■ Mazda’s fuel-efficient new engines, transmissions and vehicles have reinvigorated the brand.
■ Tata, the Indian conglomerate that bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford, has led the British brands to a renaissance.
■ Subaru remains the little carmaker that could, as the small brand continues to develop vehicles that delight its loyal customers.
■ Mercedes-Benz’ move into the small-car business with the CLA will draw plenty of attention. The German luxury brand must be crestfallen that its all-new flagship, the 2014 S-Class, didn’t make the short list, though.
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