Motor Trend Car of the Year

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The Motor Trend Car of the Year is an annual award given by Motor Trend magazine to recognize the best new or significantly refreshed car in a given model year.

Motor Trend Car of the Year winners receive a trophy like the one pictured above, awarded to the 2010 Ford Fusion.


The Motor Trend Car of the Year is an annual award given by Motor Trend magazine to recognize the best new or significantly refreshed car in a given model year.[1]

Motor Trend, which debuted in 1949, was the first publication to name a Car of the Year. Over time, other organizations have selected a "Car of the Year", but those organizations' awards are not associated with Motor Trend despite the identical award name.[2] The European Car of the Year award began in 1964 by a collective of automobile magazines.

Motor Trend's first Car of the Year award went to Cadillac's V8 engine models in 1949, powered by a novel and effective overhead valve design.[3]

Changes: Split and Recombine[edit]

The earliest awards were given to the manufacturer, not to a specific vehicle.

For several decades only American-made cars won this award. In pre-1970's United States, American automobiles had an overwhelming market share - 86% in 1970 for example.[4] American cars were so suited to the unusual conditions[5] found in the United Sates, that they were barely relevant in contests like European Car of the Year, except for the third place finish of the Oldsmobile Toronado in 1966.

In 1970, there were two awards - one for the US-built, mechanically unremarkable[6][7] Ford Torino and one for the novel German built Porsche 914 mid-engine design.

Citroën SM

Then in 1972, the radical, high technology, low volume Citroën SM won the COTY award.

At this time, American cars were for cost reasons all one one simple proven engineering concept with mild styling variations (front engine, rear wheel drive, large, low compression engine, automatic transmission, live rear axle, high fuel consumption).[8] If COTY meant 'novel and effective design' then US-built cars would not be able to win going forward - the next new technology, US designed Toronado/Corvair-type car was not on the horizon.[9]

Between 1976 and 1999, the COTY award was split in two - Domestic COTY and Import COTY.

The 1999 re-combination of Domestic COTY and Import COTY was explained by editor Angus Mackenzie as "Because it's so hard to say that, for example, a Toyota Camry, built in Kentucky and designed in California, is less American than a Ford that may have been built in Canada or Mexico and designed in Europe."[citation needed] Since the combination of the awards, American cars have won the award seven times, and imports have won six times.

The award has since expanded to include the pickup truck and sport utility vehicle (SUV) of the year, which are awarded separately from the Car of the Year.


Motor Trend's Car of the Year is "one of the most prestigious honors bestowed in the auto industry."[10]

The trophy for the winner, a depiction of calipers, is often used in the winning automaker's marketing and advertising.[11][12] Most cars that win the award report a spike in sales.[13][14]

However, receiving Motor Trend's recognition is no guarantee of success. This was the case of the nostalgic 2002 Ford Thunderbird, which did not meet expectations and was pulled from the market three years later.[15]


To be eligible for the award, a car must be an "all-new" or "substantially upgraded" vehicle that has been on sale within 12 months from the previous November, vehicles that have been on sale for over five years are ineligible for the award.

Between the contenders, it is not a comparison test. In 2014 as an example, the Motor Trend judges debated and evaluate each vehicle against six key criteria:[16]

Criteria Note
Design Advancement well-executed exterior and interior styling; innovative vehicle packaging; selection of materials
Engineering Excellence vehicle concept and execution; clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; cost-effective technology that benefits the consumer
Efficiency low fuel consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle's competitive set
Safety active: help the driver avoid a crash; secondary: protect occupants from harm during a crash
Value competitive price and equipment levels, measured against vehicles in the same market segment
Performance of Intended Function how well the vehicle does the job its planners, designers, and engineers intended

Motor Trend also only considers cars with base MSRPs less than $100,000 in order to avoid expensive luxury and super cars dominating the competition.[17]

Vehicles are subjected a battery of tests: standard car tests such as skid-pad ratings, acceleration and quarter-mile times, and evaluations of the interiors are combined with a track run conducted by SCCA-licensed testers and taking the cars out on normal roads to test their drivability under normal conditions, and fuel economy. Trucks and SUVs add towing capacity and speed, plus an off-road course, to the normal regimen.

Car of the Year listing[edit]

2015 Volkswagen Golf line-up[18]
2014 Cadillac CTS
2013 Tesla Model S
2012 Volkswagen Passat
2011 Chevrolet Volt[19]
2010 Ford Fusion[20]
2009 Nissan GT-R
2008 Cadillac CTS
2007 Toyota Camry
2006 Honda Civic
2005 Chrysler 300
2004 Toyota Prius
2003 Infiniti G35
2002 Ford Thunderbird
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
2000 Lincoln LS
1999 Chrysler 300M
1998 Chevrolet Corvette
1997 Chevrolet Malibu
1996 Dodge Caravan
1995 Chrysler Cirrus
1994 Ford Mustang
1993 Ford Probe GT
1992 Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan
1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic LTZ
1990 Lincoln Town Car
1989 Ford Thunderbird SC
1988 Pontiac Grand Prix
1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
1986 Ford Taurus LX
1985 Volkswagen GTI (eligible due to it being built in VW's now-defunct Pennsylvania plant)
1984 Chevrolet Corvette
1983 AMC / Renault Alliance
1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1981 Chrysler K Cars, Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant
1980 Chevrolet Citation
1979 Buick Riviera S
1978 Chrysler, Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon
1977 Chevrolet Caprice
1976 Chrysler, Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare
1975 Chevrolet Monza 2+2
1974 Ford Mustang II
1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
1972 Citroën SM (an imported vehicle that was selected overall "Car of the Year")
1971 Chevrolet Vega
1970 Ford Torino
1969 Plymouth Road Runner
1968 Pontiac GTO
1967 Mercury Cougar
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
1965 Pontiac Motor Division
1964 Ford Motor Company (not for the Mustang)
1963 American Motors (AMC) Rambler (all models: American, Classic, and Ambassador)
1962 Buick Special
1961 Pontiac Tempest
1960 Chevrolet Corvair
1959 Pontiac Motor Division
1958 Ford Thunderbird
1957 Chrysler Corporation (all makes: Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, and Imperial)
1956 Ford Motor Company
1955 Chevrolet Motor Division
1954 No award
1953 No award
1952 Cadillac Motor Division
1951 Chrysler Corporation
1950 No award
1949 Cadillac Motor Division

Import Car of the Year listing[edit]

Introduced in 1970 for one year and then brought back in 1976 due to distinguishing differences between imports and American cars, was discontinued after the 1999 model year when the line between what is truly American and what isn't became very blurry.

1999 Volkswagen New Beetle
1998 Lexus GS
1997 BMW 5-Series
1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
1995 Nissan Maxima
1994 Honda Accord
1993 Mazda RX-7
1992 Lexus SC 400
1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
1990 Nissan 300ZX Turbo
1989 Mitsubishi Galant GS
1988 Honda CR-X Si
1987 Acura Legend Coupe
1986 Mazda RX-7
1985 Toyota MR2
1984 Honda Civic CR-X
1983 Mazda 626
1982 Toyota Celica Supra
1981 Mercedes-Benz 300SD
1980 Honda Civic
1979 Datsun 280ZX
1978 Toyota Celica
1977 Mercedes-Benz 280E
1976 Toyota Celica Liftback
1971-1975 no award
1970 Porsche 914

Truck of the Year listing[edit]

2015 Chevrolet Colorado
2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel
2013 Ram 1500[21]
2012 Ford F-150
2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD[22]
2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty[23]
2009 Ford F-150
2008 Toyota Tundra
2007 Chevrolet Silverado
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2005 Toyota Tacoma
2004 Ford F-150
2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
2002 Chevrolet Avalanche
2001 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty
2000 Toyota Tundra
1999 Chevrolet Silverado
1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
1997 Ford F-150
1996 Chevrolet Tahoe
1995 Chevrolet Blazer
1994 Dodge Ram
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee[24]
1992 Ford Van Chateau Club Wagon
1991 Mazda Navajo
1990 Ford Aerostar
1989 Toyota Truck Xtracab SR5
1980-1988 No award
1979 Chevrolet LUV

Sport/Utility of the Year listing[edit]

2015 Honda CR-V
2014 Subaru Forester
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
2012 Range Rover Evoque
2011 Porsche Cayenne
2010 Subaru Outback
2009 Subaru Forester
2008 Mazda CX-9
2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
2006 Nissan Xterra
2005 Land Rover LR3
2004 Volkswagen Touareg
2003 Volvo XC90
2002 GMC Envoy
2001 Acura MDX
2000 Nissan Xterra
1999 Lexus RX300

Car of the Year in China[edit]

Motor Trend magazine's China-market cousin, Auto Club-Motor Trend, also issues a "Car of the Year" award for that market.

Car of the Year[edit]

2011:Bmw-Brilliance 5 Series(Long wheel base)
2010:Shanghai-GM Buick Regal
2009:GAC-Honda Accord
2008:FAW-Volkswagen Magotan(Passat B6)
2007:GAC-Toyota Camry
2006:FAW-Toyota Crown
2005:Changan-Ford Mondeo
2004:FAW-Mazda 6
2003:Shanghai Volkswagen Polo

SUV of the Year listing[edit]

2011:FAW-Volkswagen Audi Q5
2010:GAC-Toyota Highlander
2009:Dongfeng-Nissan X-Trail
2008:[GAC-Honda] CRV
2006:Shanghai GM SRX
2005:[GAC-Honda] CRV
2004:Changfeng Automobile Liebao Feiteng


  1. ^ Lieberman, Jonny (January 2014). "Motor Trend Car of the Year 2014: The Strong Thrive: The 65th Anniversary of our Signature Award Finds the Automotive Industry Stronger Than Ever". Motor Trend (Source Interlink Media) 66 (1): 42–45. ISSN 0027-2094. OCLC 423854316. Archived from the original on 2013-12-07. Retrieved 2013-12-07. Our mission was to determine exactly which of this year's 22 new or significantly refreshed contenders is in fact the best. 
  2. ^ "You Auto Know: Silver Arrows and Backwards Riding". National Post. Postmedia Network. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2010-10-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ Mueller, Mike (2006). American Horsepower: 100 Years of Great Car Engines. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7603-2327-4. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
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  6. ^ "Despite the incessant crowing that issues from the automobile industry about 'all-new' or 'original' cars, most such claims are egregious bragging. Automobiles are seldom created from blank sheets of paper. They are the result of steady, incremental development, metamorphosed from existing designs employing mechanical components already in the corporate inventory. Of course, carmakers do sometimes begin from the ground up - as in the recent cases of Chrysler's LH sedans, Ford's sales-leading Taurus and Sables, and the minivans - but such a process involves wagering billions in attempting to divine the future tastes of the public.Evolution is still safer than revolution, especially in Detroit. European and Japanese manufacturers have traditionally been more inclined to sell the same models for cycles of four to six years before introducing totally new versions, while the domestics played the 'all-new' game with basic vehicles that were sometimes as much as twenty years old. American manufacturers began to follow suit in the 1980s, having discovered that consumers were increasingly skeptical about their sheet-metal masquerades."- Brock Yates author and Editor-at-Large of Car and Driver The Critical Path: Inventing an Automobile and Reinventing a Corporation (Little, Brown & Company, 1996)
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  10. ^ Fifty Years of Motor Trend. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. 1999. ISBN 978-0-7603-0781-6. 
  11. ^ Fombrun, Charles J. (1996). Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Harvard Business Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-87584-633-0. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  12. ^ "Rambler Wins 1963 Motor Trend "Car of the Year" Award". Life 54 (10): 105. March 8, 1963. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  13. ^ Dudley, Kathryn Marie (1997). The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America. University of Chicago Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-226-16910-1. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  14. ^ Hyde, Charles K. (2003). Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation. Wayne State University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-8143-3091-3. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  15. ^ Tast, Alan; Newhardt, David (2004). Thunderbird Fifty Years. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-7603-1976-5. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
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  17. ^ Michael, Floyd (2008-09-25). "2009 Motor Trend Car of the Year: The Contenders Are Revealed, What's Your Pick?". Motor Trend. Source Interlink Media. Blogs. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  18. ^ Mike Millikin (2014-11-13). "Volkswagen Golf family named “2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year”". Green Car Congress. Retrieved 2014-11-15. 
  19. ^ Angus MacKenzie. "2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year: Chevrolet Volt". Motor Trend. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  20. ^ "Motor Trend Names Ford Fusion 2010 Car of the Year(R)". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  21. ^ Zak, Michael (2012-12-06). "Motor Trend Names 2013 Ram 1500 Truck Of The Year". AOL Autos. Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  22. ^ "2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD named Motor Trend Truck of the Year". Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  23. ^ "2010 Ram Heavy Duty - 2010 Motor Trend Truck of the Year". Motor Trend. 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  24. ^ "Jeep Grand Cherokee: Motor Trend's 1993 Truck Of The Year". Motor Trend. December 1993. Retrieved 2012-12-06.