James R. Healey and Fred Meier, USA TODAY
DETROIT -- The all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS was chosen North American Car of the Year and the updated 2013 Ram 1500 pickup was selected North American Truck/Utility of the Year at the North American International Auto Show here today.
The panel of 49 auto writers, editors and broadcasters favored new Caddy for the car trophy because of its style and innovative design that cut weight, allowing smaller engines and higher mileage ratings. ATS is the first time win for Cadillac, and the fifth time for its parent, General Motors.
GM management's orders were to "get it light, get it right," said David Leone, GM executive chief engineer, luxury performance cars.
"This is a very meaningful honor for the entire Cadillac team, especially the men and women who build the ATS in Lansing, Michigan, and our dedicated and talented designers and engineers," Bob Ferguson, GM vice president, global Cadillac, said in a statement.
The jurors chose the Ram as the truck/utility champ after its extensive update for 2013 that went well beyond a mere refresh of the truck. It gained new convenience and work truck features, a new powertrain offering featuring the Pentastar V-6 and the first 8-speed automatic transmission in a full-size pickup, and weight-cutting and aerodynamic changes that increased mileage ratings.
The Truck/Utility of the Year win by Ram 1500 is Chrysler's third victory for car or truck of the year.
"It feels like a three-point buzzer beater," said Fred Diaz, Ram CEO. He said the Ram came out a winner because of (Chrysler and Fiat CEO) Sergio Marchionne "telling us 'Boys it's time to go big or go home.' "
Besides the winners, finalists were:
Car of the Year:
•Honda Accord, completely redesigned for the 2013 model year.
•Ford Fusion, a complete remake for 2013.
Truck/utility of the Year:
•Ford C-Max, new to the lineup and available only as a gasoline-electric hybrid. It's meant to rival the Toyota Prius v.
•Mazda CX-5, a small SUV new to the brand that's a showpiece for Mazda's Skyactiv suite of technologies designed to make vehicles lighter, more fuel-efficient and more nimble.
The three finalists in each category were culled from 11 cars and 10 trucks/utility vehicles that jurors decided by voting were the best candidates. That was narrowed by another vote in December to three cars and three truck/utility vehicles as finalists.
To make the list for consideration, a car, truck or utility vehicle must be new or significantly changed. The "utility" designation was added to the truck award this year to reflect a growing number of crossovers.
The awards are given yearly after a months-long selection process by jurors. The award, and a back-to-back test session each fall at Hell, Mich., are paid for by jurors' dues.
The disparate affiliations of the jurors make the award unique and especially desirable for automakers. Because the awards are not sponsored by a for-profit organization, shoppers give them more credibility and don't automatically suspect that the championships were "sold" to an automaker in return for major spending on advertising.
Winning companies feature the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year victories prominently in ad campaigns.
This is the 20th year for the awards, which are presented at the Detroit auto show, but are not sponsored by the show.
In the previous 19 years:
•Detroit brands have won North American Car of the Year 10 times. Japanese makers have won three times; Europeans, four times and South Korean maker Hyundai won twice.
•Detroit brands won North American Truck of the Year 12 times. Japanese makers won four times. European makers won three times.