Hyundai scores auto show double award, Ram is king of trucks
Ram won the Detroit truck wars to take the North American Truck of the Year Monday, but Korea's Hyundai dominated the car and SUV awards.
Genesis, Hyundai's young luxury arm, won for car with its compact G70 sedan. Then its parent brand followed with SUV of the Year for the Hyundai Kona. It's the first time an automaker has won two awards since Chevrolet won the car and truck awards in 2014.
It also establishes Hyundai as a multi-threat Asian automaker on par with Honda, Toyota, and Nissan which also have award-winning mainstream and luxury divisions. Honda and its Acura brand were also finalists in this year's competition.
The prestigious North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year awards — celebrating its 30th anniversary — kicked off the Detroit auto show at Cobo Hall.
The Ram 1500 held off the General Motors siblings, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, to take truck honors.
"Consumers are seeing the same thing this jury saw in the Ram truck,” said RAM chief Reid Bigland. “In the last three months sales were up 20 percent and in the last month sales were up a whopping 47 percent.”
The Ram truck wowed jurors with its sculpted styling, tablet-like infotainment screen, and tech-tastic standard features. The truckmaker hopes to ride its NACTOY success into the launch of its heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models which RAM is touting with a staggering 1000 pound-feet of torque at this year's show. The GMC Sierra also impressed the jury with its six-way, MultiPro tailgate.
The Genesis G70 beat out the Honda Insight and Volvo S90, an impressive accomplishment for a young brand competing against giants like BMW and Audi. The Nurburgring-tested G70 impressed jurors with its nimble handling, manual-exclusive Sport model, and affordable price.
"This is very meaningful for us. This is only our third year as a brand and this really means a lot,” said Genesis North America brand chief Manfred Fitzgerald as he accepted the award on stage.
The Hyundai Kona compact SUV, which starts at just $20,000, bested the more premium Jaguar I-Pace electric car and Acura RDX. Loaded with standard features, solid handling and a long-range EV model, the volume-selling Kona proved irresistible to buyers over the lux brands.
"This is very unexpected," said William Lee, Hyundai North American boss. "We developed the Kona to be stylish and comfortable with an electric version that has over 250 miles of range.”
NACTOY President Lauren Fix was also surprised by the Hyundai's win.
"We knew the G70 and Ram would be tough to beat," said the popular author of The Car Coach website, "but I was really shocked by the Hyundai. It packs great utility as a great price."
The NACTOY awards, called the Oscars of the auto industry, are the only U.S. prizes judged by an independent panel of TV, Internet, and print journalists from across North America. The jury, including the author of this article, convenes every fall to drive the best new model year cars — then winnows the list down to three finalists from each category.
Finalists are announced at the LA Auto Show in November before the Detroit show.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation. Nora Naughton covers General Motors Co. for The Detroit News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org