Volkswagen, Ford take top awards at the Detroit auto show
Ford's big move to aluminium for the body of its flagship F-150 truck has helped it garner some additional material: The hardware that comes with the North American Truck of the Year Award.
Ford took the top truck honour Monday alongside the Volkswagen Golf, which was named car of the year. The winners, voted on by about 60 automotive journalists, were unveiled at the start of press previews for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"Clearly, the materials have a lot to do with the story of the truck," Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said, though he added he was "most proud" of what the material does for the vehicle's capabilities.
The aluminium body allowed Ford to reduce the truck's weight by 700 pounds compared with last year's model. That gave it greater hauling and towing capacity and better fuel economy. The lighter weight also makes the truck accelerate faster, stop quicker, and handle better, he said.
Ford's truck sales, which amount to 20 per cent of its North American sales, slowed last year as the company retooled factories to make the new one. Hinrichs said initial sales have been strong, with trucks sitting on dealer lots for an average of only five days. Only one factory in Dearborn, Michigan, is currently making the F-150, but a second factory in Kansas City will be ready by the end of March, he said.
Hinrichs predicted sales would pick up as both plants start supplying dealers.
The F-150 beat out Ford's Lincoln MKC and Chevrolet Colorado for truck honours.
Volkswagen officials were pleasantly surprised by the win over the Ford Mustang and Hyundai Genesis.
"We didn't expect this award," said Michael Horn, VW's CEO in America, while praising competitors and fondly recalling driving a 1967 Mustang. "It's confirmation of the way we've chosen to go forth. It's a starting point to get back on track here in US."
Horn said the German automaker's United States sales were down last year but started to climb in the final months of the year with the arrival of new models. He added the Golf, VW's top-selling model, also represents "the DNA of the brand" as well as its strategy for design, technology, and marketing.
It has received several other awards, including the Motor Trend Car of the Year.
General Motors' Chevrolet brand swept the awards last year with wins for the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Silverado.
This is the 22nd year for the awards, and vehicles must be all new or substantially changed for eligibility. Organisers accept no advertising, though carmakers try to capitalise on the marketing value of the honours.