This week I’ve been spending as much time as possible in Hell -- Hell, Mich., that is.
As one of the 50 jurors for the annual North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, I’ve been out driving the cars and trucks that are still in the running for the 2012 honors.
Each year in October, we rent a motorcycle clubhouse for three days, round up the contenders, drive them back to back and compare the heck out of them.
That’s so that we can be up to speed. Later this fall, we’ll vote to determine the three finalists, and then we’ll vote again to pick the 2012 North American Car and Truck of the Year, which will be announced in January.
Although the voting is far from over, I can say without fear of contradiction that the North American Truck of the Year award will not go to General Motors, Ford or Chrysler.
Several times, a non-Detroit vehicle has been voted the North American Truck of the Year. But this is the first time in the 18 years we’ve been giving the award that at least one Detroit 3 truck isn’t even in the running.
The selection process works like this:
We have an organizing committee that in about June compiles a long list of all cars and trucks sold that qualify for the competition. Vehicles need to be:
1. All new or significantly changed.
2. On sale in significant volumes in North America before the end of the year.
In September, all 50 jurors vote to winnow the long list to a more manageable “short list.” This year, there are 17 cars and seven trucks on the short list. Because of a limited number of new trucks, all seven trucks that were on the long list made the cut.
For the record, here are the seven: BMW X3, Honda CR-V, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz M class, Mini Countryman, Nissan Quest and Saab 9-4X.
Some folks at Ford groused that the F-150 EcoBoost was sufficiently different to warrant being considered. And some at Chrysler grumbled that the Jeep Wrangler’s new interior was sufficiently different -- not to mention better -- and should have made the long list.
Nope. Since the jury is independent -- and independently financed -- our organizing committee’s decision is final.
Still, it’s a cold day in Hell without a single truck from Detroit.