Skip to main content

North American Car and Truck Semi-finalists Going to Hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions unless you're talking about Hell, Mich. Next week its roads will be filled with the semi-finalists for the North American Car and Truck of the Year.

Each year, the jury of 50 automotive writers from North America (well Canada and the United States because in this world Mexico is not part of North America) get together in Hell, Michigan to drive the semi-finalists for North American Car and Truck of the Year.
According to its website, in September the 50 journalist are asked to come up with a list of 10 cars and 10 trucks that "are substantially new or have been modified to change their nature, such as a high-performance version of an existing vehicle." They are asked to limit their list to 10 cars and 10 trucks but are told to give the benefit of the doubt to vehicles they have not yet driven.

That points to one of the flaws of the North American awards. A lot of journalist members are voting cars and trucks the best that they have not driven. Case in point would be the Kia Rio that was put on the list a full week before it was introduced to the automotive media. Same thing with the Buick Verano, which is being introduced at roughly the same time as the trip to Hell, Mich.

2012 North American Car of the Year Short-List Candidates:
Audi A6
Audi A7
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Sonic
Chrysler 300/SRT-8
Fiat 500
Ford Focus
Hyundai Accent
Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai Veloster
Kia Rio/Rio 5
Scion iQ
Subaru Impreza
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius V
VW Beetle
VW Passat

Now that's a lot more than 10 cars, which points to another problem with the jury voting system. Manufacturers are going to start pushing the jurors hard on these vehicles for the next two months with vehicles that are highly tuned for the best performance. OEM engineers will be flying around the country to babysit the cars and trucks, which makes you wonder how objective the voting can be when the jurors are driving the best of the best. One negative word from a North American juror and the car or truck is instantly shipped back to headquarters to be worked over.

Most noticeable about the list of 17 finalists is almost 25 percent are from the Koreans and there are only three Japanese models on the list – and they’re all made by Toyota. How the Fiat 500 made the list is anybody's guess because it's a largely irrelevant vehicle with poor sales. Maybe this could be the thing that boosts attention.

How bad is the truck market this year? The jury could only come up with seven candidates (compared to 17 for the cars).
2012 North American Truck of the Year Short-List candidates:
Honda CR-V
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Mini Countryman
Nissan Quest
Saab 9-4X

That's right. There's not a true truck on the list. The truck category also includes minivans, crossover utility vehicles and sports utility vehicles.

Safe to say you can probably scratch Saab from the list of contenders. After all, why would the jury award a vehicle that may never go into widespread production? Saab has made no vehicles since spring as reported earlier this week in an article on Saab still breathing and not dead as originally reported.

You can also count on the Nissan Quest not making the cut because the jurors probably think themselves too savvy to back a minivan. Land Rover has invested a lot of money getting journalists to Liverpool and Vancouver, so it has to be considered a contender. Mercedes took journalists glamping in Montana, so the M Class has to be another strong contender.

What do you think of this list of North American Car and Truck of the Year semi-finalists? Comment below.


John Canali (not verified)    December 7, 2011 - 3:58AM

I think the competition should not only be limited to the America but can be opened for all over the world to make the healthy competition.