The 2014 Honda Accord was named “Green Car of the Year” at the L.A. Auto Show on Thursday morning, with jurors — who include "Tonight Show" host and car fanatic Jay Leno — hailing the sedan for bringing an assortment of environmentally friendly technologies into the mainstream.
The Accord, which Honda bills as the model with the highest retail sales volume in the U.S., is currently offered with a variety of different powertrain options, including a new 50 mpg hybrid and a plug-in hybrid with a 115 MPGe (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) rating.
The award “says we’re moving in the right direction,” said Mike Accavitti, American Honda Motors’ marketing chief, as he stood by an Accord Hybrid. Equally important, he said the award will win recognition for Honda’s expanded green car effort, which includes an assortment of new gas-electric drive systems such as the two-motor hybrid in the Accord. “This will help us sell more cars.”
The Accord win marks the second time in three years Honda captured the annual award. The Japanese maker’s midsize sedan was up against four other finalists that reflected the increasing breadth of environmentally friendly automotive technology, including:
- The high-mileage Audi’s A6 TDI turbodiesel;
- BMW’s 328d diesel, which balances performance and mileage;
- The Mazda3 sedan, which features advanced, fuel-saving gasoline technology; and
- The new Toyota Corolla, which also focuses on squeezing more mileage out of gas engine technology.
The Green Car of the Year program was established by the Green Car Journal to both honor the best in clean, fuel-efficient technology and also gain more widespread awareness among consumers, organizers said.
Notably, the focus is on “mainstream” technology, said Green Car Journal Publisher Ron Cogan, which means vehicles that are being sold “in significant enough volumes to achieve real environmental impact.” That ruled out most low-volume battery-cars, especially super-expensive models like the Tesla Model S, which can go for more than $100,000 when fully equipped.
“Our criteria is that a vehicle has to be very approachable,” explained Cogan, adding that jurors like Leno and Jean-Michel Cousteau consider not just the mileage and the level of emissions, but also the driveability of a green car competing for the annual award.
This year’s L.A. Auto Show is introducing consumers to a variety of vehicles that could very well become serious contenders for Green Car of the Year honors in the years ahead. Three manufacturers are introducing hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles that will reach U.S. showrooms between now and 2015. And Honda, Toyota and Hyundai insist their zero-emissions offerings will target the mainstream, rather than niche markets.
But the show also features plenty of plug-ins, battery-electric models — including two from Volkswagen alone — along with advanced gasoline and diesel models.
“The market always picks winners and losers,” concluded Cogan, “and without all this competition, how would we know what consumers want?”