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Los Angeles — Nominees for the auto industry's "Oscars" — the 2019 North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year awards — were appropriately announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show near Hollywood this morning. 

Asian automakers dominated the car and SUV nominees as Detroit automakers failed to make the finalist lists for either category. However, Chevy, GMC and Ram swept the nominees for best truck. The nominations held plenty of surprises as neither the iconic Jeep Wrangler nor the Toyota RAV4 — America’s best-selling vehicle — made the final cut.

NACTOY, now in their 25th year, is one of the industry’s most prestigious as it is selected by an independent jury of 55 journalists (including the author of this story) from across North America. The winners will be announced to kick off the Detroit Auto Show in January.

Car of the year finalists are the Genesis G70, Honda Insight and Volvo S60. Detroit automakers are abandoning most sedan segments, and only the lovely Buick Regal Tour X wagon was on the 2019 entry list.

Hyundai’s Genesis nameplate is building its brand with sedans, and the athletic G70 his impressed media reviewers with its nimble handling and features-laden value. China-owned Swedish-carmaker Volvo is on the comeback trail with its popular XC90 and XC60 utes, and the S60 brings slinky power to the sedan segment.

The Honda Insight was perhaps the biggest surprise of the nominees as a niche hybrid vehicle. The Insight has come a long way from the geeky Insight that got blown off the road by the Toyota Prius hybrid in the early 2000s. But Honda has rebooted the nameplate with a stylish, upscale-looking model based on Honda’s compact Civic.

“This year brought us some impressive sedan options. Car sales remain an important part of the available choices to consumers even as sales in the segment continue to fall,” said NACTOY President Lauren Fix. “We are always looking for a game-changer, something that stands out in a crowd, and strikes a positive chord with buyers.”

Utility sales, meanwhile, are red hot and the category was stuffed with viable contenders. Finalists are the Acura RDX, Hyundai Kona, and Jaguar I-Pace. Detroit automakers are shifting production to SUVs from sedans, and they sported two strong contenders this year, the stylish Cadillac XT4 and the Jeep Wrangler.

Acura is rebooting Honda’s vanilla luxury brand, and the quick, roomy, high-tech RDX has wowed with its quickness and standard options that include a full moonroof. Hyundai’s Kona is also a stylish, value entry in the growing subcompact SUV segment – and its EV version is an affordable, battery-driven option.

Speaking of electrics, the $80,000 I-Pace is a giant leap for Jaguar as the brand’s first electric vehicle. A Tesla-fighter, it brings designer Ian Callum’s typically lovely lines to the EV fight.

Only three entries were eligible for truck of the year, but all three are important entries for their Detroit brands. The Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram 1500 will vie for the crown.

The Silverado has defied chief competitor Ford’s move to aluminum by bringing an even lighter, more nimble steel truck to the truck wars. The GMC is based on the same bones as the Silverado but separates itself with an innovative, multi-way tailgate. The Ram, like the Sierra, brings impressive luxury to the pickup segment with an available, Tesla-like center infotainment screen. Combined with its smooth-riding, segment-exclusive, rear coil springs, it rivals European sedans in opulence.

Car of the Year:
Genesis G70
Honda Insight
Volvo S60

Utility of the Year:
Acura RDX
Hyundai Kona and Kona EV
Jaguar I-Pace

Truck of the Year:
Chevy Silverado
GMC Sierra
RAM 1500

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

 

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