The winners were revealed Monday morning at a news conference at the North American International Auto Show.
The winners were chosen by a jury of 50 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.
The awards are unique in the United States because instead of being given by a single media outlet they are awarded by a coalition of automotive journalists from the United States and Canada who represent magazines, television, radio, newspapers and web sites.
The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year. These vehicles are benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, comfort, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.
It is the second win for Hyundai. In 2009 the Genesis won. The Sonata was one of three finalists last year.
It was the first win for Land Rover although Land Rovers were finalists twice before.
The jurors gave the Elantra 174 points, the Passat 161 and the Focus 155.
The jurors gave the Evoque 254 points, the CR-V 142 and the X3 94.
“The Hyundai Elantra is sporty, yet sensible. Luxurious, yet affordable. Spunky, but safe. The Elantra is a series of paradoxes and every one is another argument for the latest, impressive entry in the Hyundai lineup,” wrote Jayne O’Donnell, a member of the jury from USA Today.
Another juror, Alex Taylor, of Fortune magazine, wrote: “Range Rover successfully charts a new direction for the venerable SUV trailblazer with a fresh design and advanced thinking about environmental issues.”
Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year 10 times. Japanese automakers have won three times. European automakers have won four times. A Korean automaker has won twice.
Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 12 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won three times.
This was the 19th year of the awards and it was the strongest showing by European automakers in 15 years with BMW, Land Rover and Volkswagen each having finalists. In 1997 Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW were the three car finalists with the winner being the Mercedes SLK.
To be eligible a vehicle must be all new or substantially changed. The jurors considered dozens of new vehicles before sending their ballots to Michelle Collins, a partner at Deloitte & Touche early in December.
On December 15th the three car and truck finalists were announced. But only Ms. Collins knew the winners until she handed over envelopes today to Tony Swan, editor-at-large at Car and Driver magazine and a member of the awards’ organizing committee. Mr. Swan announced the winners.
This is the 19th year of the awards, which were inspired by the “Car of the Year” in Europe.
They are administered by an organizing committee and are funded with dues paid by the jurors. There are no paid positions. Automakers do not pay to have their vehicles considered or to use the awards in ads.
The “2011 North American Car of the Year” was the Chevrolet Volt.
Last year’s “2011 North American Truck of the Year” was the Ford Explorer.
Both Hyundai and Land Rover had this to say about their win:
“Elantra speaks to the success of our recipe of bold design and great fuel economy,” said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor America. “In a year with some truly breakthrough competitors, we are honored that the jury recognizes Elantra’s far-reaching impact on the industry.”
“We are honored that the all-new Range Rover Evoque has been named the 2012 North American Truck of the Year, one of the most celebrated automotive awards in our industry,” said Andy Goss, President, Jaguar Land Rover North America. “This recognition is in keeping with the overwhelmingly positive global response from consumers who are selecting the vehicle for its ideal combination of luxury and capability, within a sustainable package.”