Remember how this was supposed to be the Year of the Car?
In January at the Detroit auto show, everybody talked about how the Big 3 were getting back into passenger cars in a big way. And they were going to do it with a slew of great new products.
So, has it happened?
There are a lot of ways to measure it. Market share is always a pretty good gauge, especially at year end. But there are still a number of important launches scheduled for this fall so it's a little premature to look at market share.
Another way is to see which vehicles are in the running for the 2005 North American Car of the Year and North American Truck of the Year. Those awards are determined each year by an independent panel of 50 journalists. The awards don't have anything to do with the Detroit auto show, except that the winners are announced at a news conference there.
To refresh your memory, the Toyota Prius was the North American Car of the Year for 2004 and the Ford F-150 was the North American Truck of the Year.
It works like this: To be eligible, a car or truck must be new or a compete makeover, it must be on sale in North America by year end and have anticipated volume of more than 5,000 units annually. That excludes cars such as the Bentley Continental GT and Ford GT.
A committee compiles a list of all eligible vehicles - it's what we jurors call the long list - and that list goes out to all voters. We then vote for the vehicles we think should be on the short list. It's the first cut. The short list is normally 10 cars and 10 trucks. We vote again later in the fall to make the final selections.
So far, there are 33 cars eligible to be the 2005 North American Car of the Year, three times as many as the eligible trucks. Of those 33 cars, 10 are from General Motors (11 if you include Saab). Ford Motor Co. has three (four if you count Volvo). The Chrysler group has three eligible cars.
It may not be the biggest field ever but there are cars on the long list that are home runs and a couple of more that are likely to be. But I'm not sure if it qualifies as a slew.
The trick is to make sure the Car of the Year is worthy of the Year of the Car.