Chevrolet’s week couldn’t have gotten off to a better start when the Corvette Stingray and Silverado pickup were named North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year.
The awards kicked off the events at last week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
A jury of 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada chose the winners as the culmination of a year-long process.
The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year, ones that are benchmarks in their market segments based on innovation, comfort, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value.
In final voting for car of the year, the Stingray amassed 211 points, followed by the Mazda3 (185) and Cadillac CTS (94).
Balloting for North American Truck/Utility of the Year gave the Silverado 219 points. Jeep’s Cherokee (174 points) and Acura’s MDX (97) rounded out the finalists.
To be eligible a vehicle must be either all new or substantially redesigned. Last year’s winners were the Cadillac ATS and Ram 1500 pickup.
“I’m really proud of the global product development team, starting with the designers through engineering and powertrain,” says Mary Barra, GM’s incoming CEO.
It’s the first time in the 21-year history of the awards that Chevrolet swept the honors, though GM products accomplished that feat in 2007 with the Saturn Aura and Silverado. Overall, it was GM’s sixth Car of the Year and fourth Truck/Utility of the Year.
Two other manufacturers have had sweeps: Honda, with the Civic and Ridgeline in 2006, and Ford with the Fusion hybrid and Transit Connect in 2010.
The awards are administered by an organizing committee and funded by dues paid by the jurors, and are unique in that they aren’t awarded by a single outlet. Instead, journalists represent magazines, television, radio, newspapers, and websites.
Automakers do not pay to have their vehicles considered or to mention the awards in advertising.
Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year 12 times, Japanese manufacturers three times, Europeans four times, and Koreans (Hyundai) twice.
Domestic manufacturers have won the truck/utility designation 14 times, Japanese four times, and Europeans three.
Golden Era of Innovation
The automotive industry is in an era of innovation in four key areas—powertrain, lightweight materials, connectivity, and active safety/assisted driving—according to research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm.
According to the BCG’s 2013 survey, 14 automakers are among the world’s top 50 most innovative companies, up from 10 in 2012 and five in 2005. Three companies (Toyota, Ford, BMW) are in the Top 10 and nine are in the Top 20. For the first time in the nine years BCG has conducted the survey, there are more auto manufacturers than consumer companies in the Top 50 and more carmakers than technology companies in the Top 20.
Xavier Mosquet, co-director of BCG’s automotive practice, sees three areas where automakers increasingly are being challenged.
1. The shift from mechanical to software-driven vehicles. Software features reduce tooling costs and allow for reconfiguration during the product’s life cycle.
2. Quickening pace of development. Consumer electronics and technology move faster than the traditional three- to five-year automotive product cycle.
3. Tier-one suppliers. These companies are developing and innovating even in powertrain, chassis, and interior design, traditionally the domain of carmakers’ R&D departments.
Tree-Based Auto Materials
When you think of sustainable materials, trees and lumber are high on the list. We’re not likely to return to cars with a wood chassis (Morgans) or extensive exterior trim (the classic woodies), but a collaboration among Lincoln, Weyerhaeuser (lumber), and parts supplier Johnson Controls is putting some tree-based components in the MKX crossover.
The project’s goal was to replace some environmentally unfriendly fiberglass with lighter and more environmentally friendly cellulose-reinforced polypropylene (CRP), which uses tree fibers in place of glass-based fibers.
It’s not a huge foray, but the material is being used in a structural piece in the center console.
Audi, one of the pioneers in using LED running lights, displayed a Sport Quattro concept car with laser high-beam headlamps earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The beams have a 547-yard range, about twice the range of LEDs. In addition, BMW has announced plans to introduce laser high beams as an option on its i8 plug-in hybrid coupe, though not for the United States market. The trend has a local tie-in; Danvers-based Osram Sylvania has invested heavily in laser technology in its global operations … Chrysler introduced its original hemispherical combustion engine (the hemi) in 1951, and the now-iconic second-generation hemi made its debut in 1964 as a 426-inch racing engine at the Daytona 500. Richard Petty led a 1-4 sweep of that race by hemi-powered cars. Chrysler’s Mopar arm will celebrate that 50th anniversary with events and merchandise throughout 2014.Bill Griffith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.