Every year, numerous car-of-the-year awards (COTY) are handed out by magazines, car clubs, websites, and consumer groups. But those awards all focus on cars that currently are in production. What sets the North American Concept Vehicle of the Year award apart is that some of the winners may never be built.
Concept vehicles aren’t as prevalent as they used to be during auto show season (see my blog “The Demise of the Concept Vehicle”), so the manufacturers who continue to support this fun-to-look-at practice deserve to be rewarded.
For 2013, the distinguished panel of judges (full disclosure, your humble servant is a judge) selected some great, and great-looking, vehicles for top honors. We nominated and voted on vehicles in three classes: Production Preview Vehicle, Concept Car, and Concept Truck. Production Preview Vehicle is the most recent category, as more and more concept vehicles today are introduced as a thinly disguised production vehicle and, therefore, have to be judged separately from those concepts that may never see an assembly line.
In this PPV category, the BMW i8 Spyder received top honors over finalists like the Acura NSX, Subaru WRX STI, and Tesla Model X. The i8 won the Concept Vehicle COTY last year, and now comes back as the winner of the PPV category. The i8 Spyder is the open-top version of the i8 coupe, and besides being stunning to look at, is full of impressive technologies, such as upward swiveling doors, a transparent tailgate, and the plug-in hybrid powertrain that features BMW’s eDrive drivetrain. The i8 Concept Spyder runs on either a high-performance electric motor that gets its power from a lithium-ion battery or from a gas engine. The combined 354 horsepower output is enough to put it at the top of any hybrid buyer’s list.
For a pure concept car, the Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis concept is everything an award winner should be. If the next-generation Genesis looks anything like this, it will be a hands-down sales success. The HCD-14 concept takes Hyundai’s fluidic design further than it’s been before, and with excellent results. The rear-hinged doors, sharp character line, and big wheels made it a standout on the auto show floor. Gesture-based controls, the Tau V8 engine, and ceramic-lined exhaust system make it a total package more than worthy of the award.
Because trucks are vital to life in North America, having a Concept Truck category just makes sense. A Ford vehicle has won this title for the second time. The Ford Atlas concept truck really shows that the designers and truck team stretched their imaginations to see what might be possible for future work vehicles. The Atlas may hint at what the next-gen F-Series trucks will look like, but it’s the featured technologies that helped it win the award. How about active wheel shutters that open or close for cooling or fuel economy savings? Or how it can automatically back up to your trailer with your hands off the wheel so there’s no swearing? Or even the roof cradle that allows you to carry long boards or canoes, but folds away when not in use. There was no other truck on the show circuit that offered this level of imagination and future think.
Congratulations to all the winners, and keep those great ideas — and vehicles — coming.