The North American Car of the Year (NACTOY) awards is one of the most highly anticipated honors bestowed by auto industry experts. A juried panel of journalists evaluates the many new models available before narrowing their choices to three in each category: car, truck, and utility vehicle.
Previous Winners; 2021 Finalists
For 2021, we see several familiar models as well as one that not long ago would have been considered futuristic, but this year seems to have arrived right on time. The domestics are well represented, but the usual “foreign” entries guarantee at least one will win.
Last year, the Chevrolet Corvette took honors for the car award, while the Kia Telluride won the SUV category. The top truck award belonged to the Jeep Gladiator.
NACTOY Car of the Year
This year, the car finalists include the Genesis G80, Hyundai Elantra, and the Nissan Sentra. No domestic automaker received final consideration, largely due to manufacturers cutting back on their offerings these past few years.
The Corvette won last year because its redesign was so revolutionary and impactful. Our pick among the current entries is the Genesis G80, the current iteration of this luxury marque’s midsize offering.
NACTOY Truck of the Year
Among truck models, the 2021 Ford F-150 has the likely edge as it is the latest generational model for Ford’s best-selling pickup truck. The two other models offered, the Jeep Gladiator Mojave and Ram 1500 TRX are based on current models.
While we think the Ram has the best chance of the two models from Fiat Chrysler, we think the F-150 will garner the award this year. It would be unusual for jurists to overlook an overhauled model in favor of a special trim of an existing model.
NACTOY Utility Vehicle of the Year
The utility vehicle category has grown strong in recent years as consumers flee cars for crossovers primarily. For 2021, the futuristic Ford Mustang Mach E rolls out, a model that shares its name with Ford’s famous pony car and includes several of its design elements. That said, the Mach-E is a pure electric crossover utility vehicle, designed to take on the industry’s leaders, including Tesla.
The Genesis GV80 is the first SUV from Hyundai’s luxury brand and is poised to lift the brand’s visibility accordingly. The third entry is the Land Rover Defender, which uses the name of the time-honored model, although some would argue that it is far different from previous Defenders. That’s a fair assessment.
Of this trio, we think the Ford Mustang Mach E wins this year’s utility vehicle of the year award.
The NACTOY jury pool is comprised of 50 jurists from across the United States and Canada. Automakers must get each juror behind the wheel of their vehicles for candidate testing and evaluation. Under normal circumstances, this is a challenge. This year, with a worldwide pandemic raging, those challenges have magnified. Yet, the automakers persisted and the jurists have narrowed their selections accordingly.
The final voting will span three days in early January with the winners announced on January 11, 2021. In earlier years, the announcement coincided with the start of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. But that show has moved to a June setting, although it was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Surprisingly absent from the list of utility vehicle finalists was at least one of GM’s trio of all-new full-size SUVs. The Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, and the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban are all-new. Also new is the popular Nissan Rogue, along with various models from Acura, Cadillac, and Volvo. But in a crowded field of contenders, some models cannot make the final cut. Thus, the list of utility vehicle finalists suggests that each is a strong player in the segment.
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Photos copyright NACTOY and the respective automakers.