UPDATE – Shown below was my pre-announcement prediction that the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Explorer would win (respectively) NAI Car and Truck of the Year. I was only half right. The Chevrolet Volt won, along with the Ford Explorer.
Rather than removing the wrongly anticipated post, I am leaving up with the results. So I was only 50 percent right!
Yet, please note: I was complimentary of the Volt and GM’s innovation with it, even stating that I would buy one. I think it is an amazing vehicle as is the Sonata (in its own way). My mistaken prediction was more of a result of anticipating the anti-electric politics of the judging journalists. The win by the Volt proves, among other things, that electric power has more support than some may believe. Now, we all ope that the manufacturers can ramp up production to meet demand on all of these new, very popular vehicles and their related technologies.
You heard it here first!
Monday morning at 9am, EST (7am here in MST), the winners will be announced for the North American International Car and Truck of the Year.
Finalists for NAI Car of the Year:
Nissan LEAF – First modern, mass-produced all-electric vehicle
Chevrolet Volt – Impressive electric car with range extending gasoline combustion engine
Hyundai Sonata – Stylish mid-size sedan with traditional gasoline power source
Finalists: NAI Truck of the Year
Jeep Grand Cherokee – Incredibly impressive design, ride and redefined interior
Dodge Durango – On extended Cherokee platform, with room for third row
Ford Explorer – New Taurus platform, car-based crossover
Background: Roughly 49 well-informed automotive journalists narrowed all entrants to final three in each category. They have driven and tested the nominated candidate vehicles and collectively and independently nominated the finalists. The recipients of the awards await the announcement ceremony Monday in Detroit’s famed Cobo Hall.
Some details on finalists:
NAI Car of the Year….
LEAF – Nissan has become a trailblazer in the full electric category. At some degree of risk, the LEAF has been released recently (December) in four targeted US markets. It appears that demand, at least initially, far exceeds planned production and supply. Electric cars are controversial (see other blog updates posted below). The jury is still out and only time will tell if electric cars find their needed foothold in the US car buying marketplace for anything that moves the needle on percentage of sales. Biggest concern? Range anxiety. National Highway Transportations Safety Board rates the LEAF at 77 miles from fully charged to needing to be charged.
Volt – General Motors seem to have a winning product (not necessarily for this award) in the Chevrolet Volt. Solidly anticipating the range anxiety issue, GM backs the electric power-train in the Volt with a range extending gasoline combustion engine. The Volt, therefore can travel 400 to 500 miles, or even much more, with an electric charge utilizing the gasoline powered back-up. This car is so impressive, I would buy one (or more)! Again, for the Volt, supply is far outstripped by intense demand. GM cannot begin to meet initial demand and plans only 10,000 Volts in 2011. GM also selected four markets nationally to release the Volt. Colorado is not expected to get any Volts before the 2010 model year. GM is working feverishly to increase production.
Sonata – In a dramatic and impressive redesign of the Sonata, Hyundai has produced a wildly popular vehicle. In the process, Hyundai has elevated itself among car brands consumers seriously consider for their next purchase. Hyundai plans a Blue-Tec hybrid version of the Sonata soon, as well as a turbo version. Neither is available just yet.
Tim’s prediction – Hyundai Sonata. Why? The electric vote considerations will be split between two distinctly different versions of electric, one with a range extender and one without. The safer vote is is for the traditional power-source, albeit one in a distinctive and impressive design.
NAI Truck of the Year…
Grand Cherokee – Whether a fan of Chrysler or Jeep as a brand, one has to be impressed with the latest iteration Grand Cherokee. It is sleek yet rugged, stylish yet powerful, and innovative yet not over the pale. The new Grand Cherokee is, my opinion, the best Jeep ever.
Durango – Not yet even in showrooms, Chrysler has taken the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, extended it and added a third row seat for greater passenger capacity. If you like the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and want more capacity, you will love the new Dodge Durango.
Explorer – Long the image of modern SUV, Ford has been well-served by its generations of Explorers. One the highest volume family-engineered 4X4s, the Explorer has been a pioneer in mobility and has been a popular nameplate for many years. Ford has taken the popular name-plate and matched it with a modified drive-train platform based on its popular Taurus sedan for a highly innovative new version Explorer. Ford led the Explorer launch with a social media extravaganza by internal brainiac, Scott Monty. It is high demand at dealerships across the country.
Tim’s predicted winner – Ford Explorer. Why? Again, with the close nature of the finalists, I think the Durango and Grand Cherokee, since they share characteristics will lead to some vote splitting. And the Ford Explorer is such an amazing vehicle in its own right. It appears the new Explorer (as well as the new Grand Cherokee) will be a market leader producing the highest percentage sales for the brand under Ford in history.
We’ll see if I am right about these, yet I’m, so sure, I will publish these predictions roughly 12 hours before the announcements in Detroit. We’ll see how close I come to matching the professionals independently aggregated results.