'Back to school' ads are are spooling up on TVs and in newspapers everywhere, and the auto industry's model picture is pretty clear for 2015, which means it's time for a new North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year long list.
This is the first time we can recall the eligible nominees in the truck/utility segment outnumbering the number of qualifying cars.
For 2015, the jury will consider some 29 entrants in the car category, and 28 models are in contention for the truck/utility award, a category that includes crossover vehicles. This year's list is as long and varied as the industry itself, with everything from inexpensive subcompacts like the Honda Fit to exotically styled, constructed and powered dream cars like the BMW i8 up for consideration. It's also a truck/utility-heavy year, with utility players like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Colorado commingling with tiny luxury CUVs like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. This is the first time we can recall the eligible nominees in the truck/utility segment being so close in number to that of the qualifying cars. While we're not ready to call it a bellwether moment, it seems like both a reflection of industry trends and also an acknowledgment that companies like General Motors are renewing a lot of closely related product families this year (e.g. GM's full-size GMT K2UC/G SUVs).
A number of car companies have multiple nominees, including GM (one car, eight trucks/utilities), Ford (one car, seven trucks/utilities), BMW (five cars, one utility), Hyundai/Kia (three cars, two utilities) and Toyota (one car, three utilities).
Last year, the cut crystal awards went to the Chevy Corvette Stingray and Silverado in a rare brand sweep.
It's important to note that this long list is a preliminary roundup of new or substantially refreshed vehicles, and at this early stage in the process, the jurors, like the rest of the automotive media, haven't necessarily had a chance to see and drive everything on the list. As we've noted previously, the long list is designed to show which vehicles are eligible for consideration, and as such, it's a fluid one – some nominees may fall of the list if they aren't made available to the jury within the consideration period, and other vehicles not shown on this list may yet be added.
For 2015, the independent jury (NACTOY is not affiliated with any publication, show or automaker, and funding comes from dues paid by the jurors themselves) has been expanded by 10 slots to 60 jurors. The expansion comes in acknowledgement of the industry's growing number of important publications in print, online and broadcast journalism.
The jury has a lot of work ahead of it: this autumn, after jurors have driven the nominees, an initial round of voting will be held, and the resulting "short list" of a dozen or so vehicles will trigger a further period of assessment followed by another vote that will result in three finalists for each category. A final round of voting will commence, and the winners will be announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Check out both lists of nominees by scrolling below, then have your say on who you think should win in Comments.
*Full Disclosure: Author is a NACTOY jury member.
UPDATE: In the text above, we commented on the fluidity of the NACTOY long list, and indeed, that's proving to be the case already – the Mini Hardtop has been added (although it initially carried a 2014 MY designation, it arrived too late for consideration in last year's voting) and the Honda HR-V and Ram ProMaster City have been removed, as they won't be available in time for judging. The Toyota Highlander has also been added. The text of the story and the nominee list has been updated accordingly.
August 1, 2014
Alfa Romeo 4C
Cadillac ATS Coupe & V
Hyundai Genesis sedan
Jaguar F-Type Coupe
Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
Subaru WRX / WRX STi
Ford F-Series HD
Ford Transit Connect
GMC Yukon XL
Kia Soul EV