ICOTY candidates–who’s likely to win?

Finalists have been announced for the ICOTY (International Car of the Year) award. Winners will be announced at NAIAS (the Detroit auto show) in January. A few dozen leading auto writers from various publications and websites vote, so advertising is not a factor in this one.

The car finalists:

1. Chevrolet Camaro

2. Ford Taurus

3. Hyundai Genesis

The truck finalists:

1. Chevrolet Equinox

2. Ford Transit Connect

3. Volvo XC60

I learned a few years ago, when the Saturn AURA won, that voting is heavily based on the significance of the car for its manufacturer and for the car market, and not just on what the car is like to look at and drive.

In the car category we have:

1. The first car Hyundai has produced that enthusiasts would want to drive.

2. The symbol of Ford’s (hoped for) resurgence. Journalists love to boost Ford these days. (Which will also help the Transit Connect.) The Taurus has been receiving so-so reviews, but so did the AURA.

3. A niche product that, while stylish and powerful, doesn’t point the way to the future of either GM or the car market in general.

So I think the odds of winning run in the above order.

Over in trucks, I see no chance for the XC60. The question, then, is whether a revolutionary (for North America) cargo can get the nod over a mainstream crossover that is far better than the one it replaced. Tough call, but if I have to pick one it’s the Equinox.

I used to think that journalists would avoid giving one manufacturer both wins. But then GM won both two years ago, so this isn’t a factor.

  • bh

    The Camaro looks like it would be a niche product, but it’s a huge seller for Chevrolet. Way ahead of the Cobalt and beating even the Equinox, and neither of those are considered niche.

    How successful it is over the long term will remain to be seen, of course, but it’s moved at a steady 8k units/month since its introduction.

  • Michael

    It’s still early. Sports cars often sell strongly for the first 6 to 18 months, then tank.

    Then Equinox would be selling better if it were not in short supply. GM had the same slow launch with the Malibu. I’m not sure what the causes are.

  • bh

    This level is much higher than normal for a sporty car, and the Mustang has proven that a high and steady sales can be maintained in that market class.

  • Michael

    The Mustang is the exception, not the rule. The Corvette is another exception. Mustang and Corvette sales have been fairly steady for decades. Camaro sales have had huge peaks and valleys.

    The reasons remain the same: the Mustang has a more solid base, and is a much more practical car. The Corvette has a solid base, and its sales are based on performance.

    The Camaro relies much more strongly on styling than either the Mustang or the Corvette, and the draw of styling fades quickly.

    Even after the recent example of the Solstice and SKY, GM seems incapable of learning this lesson.

  • bh

    I’m not sure if it’s that the Mustang itself is so strong. Rather, that the market can only support one high-volume sporty coupe. And it’s conceivable that the tide has turned with regards to which one the market will prefer.

  • Michael

    At this point with the Solstice, GM fans were celebrating how it was outselling the Miata.

    Now, just a few years later, which one is still alive?

    But no point in arguing about this now. How about we revisit this discussion in two years?

  • bh

    If the MX-5 were relying on its U.S. volume, I don’t see how it could have survived. But we will indeed have to wait and see — at least, to see whether Camaro sales continue strong, if not to see whether the ICOTY judges believe they will.

  • Michael

    ICOTY judges aren’t fortune tellers. The Saturn AURA won a few years ago largely because it signalled a promising future for both GM and the brand…

  • guyatherton

    I disagree that the Taurus has received so-so reviews. Yes the SHO is not M% (not to be expected when half the price) but the “normal” spec models (SE and SEL) have been well received.

    Ford is on a roll and it is not just the Taurus. The Fusion had a significant update and outsells the newer (as in completely new) Malibu. Closing in on the Accord. The Fusion Hybrid is also doing a great job and is significantly more fuel efficient than the Camry Hybrid – give Ford credit where it is due.

    Next year the Fiesta comes, which is hugely popular in Europe (Ford market share increased as well). Much better than Fit or Yaris which are bit players in Europe.

  • bh

    The Fusion is finally selling well, yes, but it is in no way “closing in on the Accord.” It’s not even among the ten best-sellers. The Accord had twice the Fusion’s sales in September, and wasn’t too far off from that in either August or October.

    There is no sedan that is “closing in” on either the Accord or Camry, just as no compact car is coming close to the Civic and Corolla and no pickup is anywhere near the Silverado and F-Series.

  • guyatherton

    bh – it depends on the month you take. Back in June the Fusion sold over 18,000 and the Accord 21,000 so closing in was correct. You are right about the past few months. The Fusion is still based on a four year old car whereas the Accord is new. Give Ford the chance with a completely new Fusion in 2012 and we will see.

    The Fiesta will give the Fit a run for their money. At least Ford doesn’t have to rely on a compact, a midsize and a small SUV like Honda does for the majority of their sales. Ford has more depth with the F-150, the Mustang and a full size car (Taurus) in addition to the Focus (which again is a refresh of an old car and is a top ten seller), Fusion and Escape (also an old model -wait for the Kuga from Europe)

  • bh

    The Accord was actually 24,000 units in June.

    http://automobiles.honda.com/news/press-releases-article.aspx?Article=5057

    And the Focus has only been in the top ten sellers a handful of times since its introduction. Top twenty, yes; top ten, no.

  • guyatherton

    bh – thanks for confirming that the Focus has been in the top 10 (remembering that several spots are taken up by trucks and SUV’s) and for the Fusion being within 30% of the Accord at certain times.

    Ford has gained market share and will deservedly continue doing so. Honda has been hit by poor styling (any recent Acura, the Pilot and the new Accord crossover).

  • bh

    Yes, I’m very familiar with the sales positions. I’ve been compiling a top-10 list monthly for more than a year, and then expanded that to top-15 and now top-20.

    Last month’s numbers below: http://www.examiner.com/x-1017-DC-Car-Examiner~y2009m11d4-Trucks-are-big-again-and-other-October-2009-new-car-sales-results

  • guyatherton

    Thanks for the link. I am glad you agree Ford is increasing market share due to better products and that the Fusion is selling better than the previous version. Whilst Accord and Camry are stagnant at best – so a little closing in.