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Detroit auto show: Cadillac ATS, Ram 1500 win Car, Truck of the Year

Published January 14, 2013

For the first time in two years, Detroit auto makers won both the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, announced Monday at the Detroit auto show.

“It says the American auto industry is back,” said David Leone, Cadillac’s executive chief engineer for performance and luxury vehicles, who accepted the Car of the Year award for the Cadillac ATS.

“It gives people confidence that they can start to buy and feel very good about their purchase. As the business grows, good things happen for the industry and surrounding areas.”

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His thoughts were echoed by Fred Diaz, president of Ram Truck, who accepted the Truck of the Year award for the Ram 1500.

“This has been a surreal moment for us,” said Diaz, “when you know where we were three years ago, coming to within an eyelash of non-existence, and here we are three years later being able to receive such a prestigious honour.

“The one thing that’s the beauty of the corporation and especially the Ram Truck brand is that we remain very, very humble, but also very, very hungry to take it to the next level.”

The Cadillac beat the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord to take the top North American honour. It was considered a favourite among the 49 auto journalist judges because of its emotional appeal, though this is Cadillac’s first win at these awards.

The Ram 1500 beat the Mazda CX-5 and Ford C-Max crossovers for the title of North American Truck/Utility of the Year. The Ram 1500 was also named Truck of the Year in 1994, the first year for the awards, when the brand was operated as Dodge.

This year, the name of the truck award was changed to Truck/Utility of the Year to reflect the growing number of crossover vehicles that are included in the category. Originally, the title recognized only pickup trucks, but SUVs, minivans and now CUVs also vie for the title.

It’s important not to confuse the North American Car and Truck/Utility Vehicle of the year with the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year. The vehicles up for consideration are usually similar and must be either new or substantially revised, but the voting systems are very different.

The North American title is decided by 49 members of the automotive media who vote with a points system for whichever vehicle they consider best: they have 50 points to bestow pretty much however they like (though no more than 10 on any one vehicle), and they write in to the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche to say how they want their points distributed.

A shortlist of the three highest points winners in each of the two categories is then prepared and the jurors then vote again.

In Canada, about 70 members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada drive all the vehicles up for consideration back to back and then award points for many different areas of performance and ability, which is matched up with automatic points earned for non-subjective areas such as cargo space and fuel consumption. The winners in each of a dozen-or-so categories are announced and the judges award points again for the main titles, which are announced at the Toronto auto show next month.

The Cadillac ATS is short-listed as a potential 2013 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year, but the Ram 1500 was not eligible to be considered because there was no category for pickup trucks in 2013.

The original shortlist for the North American Car of the Year included the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Dart, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Lincoln MKZ, Nissan Altima, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ and Toyota Avalon.

The shortlist for the Truck/Utility of the Year included the Acura RDX, Audi allroad, BMW X1, Ford C-Max, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, Infiniti JX 35, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Pathfinder and Ram 1500.

Last year, the Hyundai Elantra was named North American Car of the Year, and the Range-Rover Evoque was Truck of the Year.

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