LA Auto Show: Barra, Alfa rule Motor Trend Awards

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — The annual Motor Trend awards kicked off the Los Angeles Auto Show Monday night and Detroit ruled the red carpet. General Motors CEO Mary Barra took home Person of the Year and Ford’s F-150 dominated Truck of the Year.

But the headliner was the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s upset win for Car of the Year over the historic Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle and formidable Honda Accord.

2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

“The Giulia was the only vehicle whose essence enraptured the jury with its charm and unbridled zeal for driving,” wrote Motor Trend’s Mark Rechtin of the winning entry, Alfa’s first premium sedan in the U.S. market. Alfa is a premium brand in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group.

Rechtin and his fellow Motor Trend jurists put the new cars, trucks and crossovers of 2018 through harsh testing. The field was ultimately winnowed to a select few finalists based on six criteria: design, engineering excellence, performance, efficiency, safety, and value.

The magazine also honors the year’s most impactful player in the auto industry with Barra as the consensus choice. The awards were presented on Monday night in Los Angeles at the Petersen Automotive Museum, home to one of America’s premier car collections.

The nimble Giulia’s victory was perhaps most unexpected because Motor Trend is the rare automotive award to have had extensive access to Tesla’s Model 3. Tesla, for example, chose not to enter the EV in the prestigious North American Car, Truck, and SUV of the Year award (which will announce its finalists later this week) as it focused on ramping up production.

2018 Ford F-150

The Tesla has won raves for its bold design, minimal interior and as the first luxury EV to travel over 200 miles on a charge. Over 450,000 hungry customers have put down $1,000 in pre-orders. But Motor Trend found the Italian sedan more compelling for its personality, sexy styling, safety rating, and raw speed.

“About three years ago, we set out to bring the best premium sedan in the world to market. And here tonight, by picking up the Motor Trend Car of the Year award, is proof positive we are on the right track,” said Alfa chief Reid Bigland, clutching the Motor Trend “Golden Calipers” trophy.

Though its acclaimed 10th-generation Accord came up short for Car of the Year, Honda did not go home empty-handed. Its CR-V crossover won SUV of the Year, eking out another Alfa — the Stelvio (based on the same platform as Giulia) — as well as the reliable Subaru Crosstrek.

2018 Honda CR-V

The Ford F-150, refreshed for 2018 after debuting its all-aluminum body in 2015, ran away with the truck award with a powerful, technically-superior lineup of 4x4 trims that included the Raptor off-road beast. Runners-up were the Chevy Colorado ZR2 and GMC Sierra 3500 HD Denali.

In picking Barra as Person of the Year, the jury rewarded not just GM’s first female CEO, it honored an executive who has brought bold changes to a recently bankrupt automaker.

“We wanted to recognize the CEO that makes the hard decisions and positions their company for success,” said Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh afterward. “Mary has a program for everything from the connected car to the EV space. She shut down a couple of long-running brands in Australia and Europe that have been a drag on the company. And she’s tackled a lot of adversity — when you talk to people at GM they stand behind her.”

General Motors CEO Mary Barra

Motor Trend’s Of the Year issue recognized 49 more auto executives for their talents including Tesla’s Elon Musk, Chrysler designer Ralph Gilles, and Ford global chief Joe Hinrichs. The issue hits newsstands in December.

Look for the Golden Caliper trophy on the hoods of the winners at auto shows across the country.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.