Finalists for Car of the Year run the gamut, from the redesigned Honda Civic to the Pontiac Solstice roadster and Ford’s great midsize sedan hope, the Fusion. Truck finalists are the new Honda Ridgeline, the redesigned Nissan Xterra and the Ford Explorer. Should domestic automakers win in one or both categories, the message is clear: in the eyes of the 49 jurors, American vehicles compete handily with the best offered by import automakers. If import automakers win in both categories – a possibility, given the strength of the Civic, Ridgeline and Xterra, as well as the Ford Explorer’s lukewarm public reception – the message is just as clear: Ford and GM continue to lose ground even in the truck and SUV market, a traditional domestic stronghold.
Nominees were chosen from 14 contenders in each category, and voted on by a selection of 49 journalists from the print, television and Internet fields. Of the nominees, several were honored recently in the 2006 Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, with the Civic winning Car and Hybrid of the Year, the Honda Ridgeline winning Truck of the Year and the Explorer nabbing SUV of the Year honors.