And the North American Car of the Year is....

The win was particularly sweet for General Motors, which took a big risk by completely tearing up the traditional playbook for the vehicle often known as “America’s sports car.”
Image: The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
The win was particularly sweet for General Motors, which took a big risk by completely tearing up the traditional playbook for the vehicle often known as “America’s sports car.”Chevrolet

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By Paul A. Eisenstein

The Chevrolet Corvette added another trophy to its collection Monday, the auto industry’s prestigious North American Car of the Year award.

The annual event also saw the new Kia Telluride honored as North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, and the Jeep Gladiator named North American Truck of the Year. This marks the 27th year the awards were presented, and offered something of a victory for Detroit’s Big Three, who took home two of the trophies despite the fact that European and Asian manufacturers dominated the list of semi-finalists.

The win was particularly sweet for General Motors, which took a big risk by completely tearing up the traditional playbook for the vehicle often known as “America’s sports car.” At a starting price of $58,900, the Corvette comes in at a fraction of what European rivals Ferrari and Lamborghini command.

“This is a really powerful validation for what we’ve been doing,” said Tadge Juechter, head of the Corvette program.

The Corvette went up against two strong contenders, the new Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Supra. With up to 495 horsepower in its Stingray trim, the new sports car can hit 60 in about 2.8 seconds and top out at just under 200 miles an hour. Known to fans as the C8 — short for eighth-generation Corvette — it is being offered as both a coupe and convertible.

The award could actually create some challenges for Chevrolet. Parent General Motors was hit by a long strike at the beginning of the 2020 model-year and the automaker is still struggling to get production back on track. That has left it with shortages of key products, such as the new Corvette that was already nearly sold out for the 2020 model-year before the walkout. Juechter said a second shift is being added at the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to help catch up with demand.

The Corvette isn’t the only winner to be facing strong demand. Kia’s U.S. President Michael Cole noted the South Korean carmaker is struggling to deliver all the Telluride SUVs that Americans have been demanding since its launch last year.

The Telluride — which Cole noted was designed and engineered in the U.S. and built at a plant in Georgia — is Kia’s first product to win a car of the year award.

“This is an accolade anyone would be proud of,” Cole said.

The other utility vehicle finalist was Lincoln’s new Aviator, which has been credited with building new life for a brand that has been struggling for years.

The final award, for North American Truck of the Year, went to the Jeep Gladiator. NACTOY Vice President Chris Paukert described it as “something of a Swiss Army knife: part pickup, part utility vehicle and part convertible.” But, as with the other two winners, Jeep is struggling to meet demand for the truck.