Ford looks like an early favourite to grab some laurels for North American Car/Truck of the Year, as three finalists in each category were announced today.
Ford Fusion (below) is up against Cadillac ATS and Honda Accord for Car of the Year.
Ford's C-Max microvan (below) will compete with Mazda CX-5 Crossover and Ram (formerly Dodge) 1500 pick-up in the truck category.
The finalists were winnowed down from a short list of over a dozen vehicles in each category by a jury of fifty automotive journalists in the US and Canada (yours truly included).
We will vote again to choose overall winners in each category, which will be announced at the first Press Day of the North American International (a.k.a. Detroit) Auto Show next January 14.
I'm not quite as out of step with my colleagues as usual in this year's finalists. Personally, I think the Cadillac is a slam-dunk for the overall Car title, and I gave it my maximum number of points on this first ballot.
That said, the Accord is an impressive piece in a market segment that is much larger (if not as technically leading-edge) as compact sport-luxury where the ATS gives a very good account of itself against BMW's 3-Series.
I wasn't as impressed with Fusion compared with the Nissan Altima, and I did hope the Subaru BRZ would make the top three, given that it really does move the goalposts in the admittedly tiny sports car market segment.
I was very surprised the impressive Ford Escape didn't make the final round, and almost as much so that C-Max did. Not that C-Max isn't a very nice vehicle, it's just that Americans (who dominate this jury) have traditionally shown zero interest in little vanettes like this.
The Ram pickup was the only 'real' truck in the field (we count Crossovers and SUVs as trucks because technically they are, even if the vast majority of owners use them as cars - station wagons, to be honest).
I haven't seen the numerical breakdowns, but I'd have to think the Hyundai Santa Fe must have given the Mazda CX-5 a run for the podium. We never know unless they tell us why the jurors vote the way they do, but perhaps Mazda's promise of a new way of thinking about car engineering, the so-called SkyActiv approach, generated the 'tipping point' buzz.