The 49 jurors of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards have spoken: the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Ford Explorer are this year's best car and truck. The announcement this morning at the Detroit Auto Show drew a line in the sand for the contentious fan bases of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf.
As passionate as green-vehicle fans can be about their personal favorites, however, the fact that electric or largely electric vehicles constitute two thirds of the finalists for the award speaks volumes about the industry's recognition of the impact of the technology on the industry, not just now, but in the long term. Being the 2011 NACOTY won't hurt the Volt's case, though.
The truck category was a bit less heated, with Chrysler vehicles in two of the three finalist spots. The winning 2011 Ford Explorer joined the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango to make it an all-American shutout.
American dominance in trucks is unsurprising: American brands have taken the truck win 11 times over the award's previous 17 years. In the last five years, however, Japanese carmakers (Honda and Mazda) have edged out the win twice.
Last year's NACOTY winners were the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the 2010 Ford Transit Connect van.
The original pool of over 50 vehicles nominated for a 2011 NACOTY award were eliminated over a series of votes, narrowing the field to 28 then to six, and finally, to the two top vehicles of the year.
This year's nominees were:
2011 North American Car of the Year
2011 North American Truck of the Year
Jeep Grand Cherokee