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Old 01-15-2007, 02:57 PM   #1
KILLER74Z28
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One-two punch

One-two punch
GM claims 2007 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards with revamped Chevy Silverado and all-new Saturn Aura

By BOB GRITZINGER

AutoWeek | Published 01/07/07, 12:39 pm et

General Motors, most recently sagging on the ropes with many suggesting the world’s largest automaker was down for the count, responded with two swift punches to the meat of the market with its award-winning Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickup and Saturn Aura midsize sedan.

For the second year in a row (and just the second time in the 14-year history of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards) one automaker claimed top honors in both categories. The awards were announced January 7 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

In the car category, Aura received 205 points, followed by Honda Fit with 176 points and Toyota Camry with 89 points. On the truck side, Silverado picked up 243 points, compared to 135 points for the Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge at 92 points. Silverado was completely redesigned for 2007, while Aura is an all-new car for Saturn, based on a global GM midsize car platform developed by Opel.

A panel of 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada vote on the awards, which recognize the best vehicles of the year based on factors such as innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value. To be eligible, vehicles must be new or “substantially changed” from the previous model.

Last year’s winners were the Honda Civic and Honda Ridgeline.

This time around, the voting process changed somewhat, with jurors whittling a long list of contenders down to three favorites in each category. Jurors then were asked to cast a second ballot, choosing just from the three finalists in each category. A hiccup occurred when organizers realized the all-new Jeep Wrangler had been left off the long list of trucks for consideration, which required a round of new balloting. Wrangler still didn’t make the cut.

“Yes!” exclaimed Jill Lajdziak, the ecstatic Saturn general manager as she accepted the award for Aura. “This is a great day for General Motors, a great day for Chevrolet, and a great for Saturn.”

Added Chevrolet general manager Ed Peper: “We at Chevrolet feel we have the best truck out there, but this validates it.”

Natalie Neff, AutoWeek road test editor and a juror, said it was “a triumph for GM and a triumph for Saturn to win the award. It’s an indication that GM is heading in the right direction, in the minds of critics and consumers.”

Juror Steven Cole Smith, AutoWeek contributor and juror, said GM overcame the threat presented by the all-new Toyota Tundra also revealed at the Detroit show.

“All Chevrolet can do to protect its spot in the market is build an excellent truck—and that’s just what the company has done.”

Juror Jacques Duval of Le Guide de l’auto said the Aura is “a ray of sunshine after all the bad news about General Motors. The Aura might not win the war against it’s Japanese competitors but it should win a good share of the market. Nice to drive, comfortable, well appointed and a build quality that was long overdue at GM.”

WINNERS

Saturn Aura

Base Price: $20,595

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter, 224-hp, 220-lb-ft V6; fwd, four-speed automatic

Chevrolet Silverado

Base Price: $17,815

Drivetrain: 4.3-liter, 195-hp, 260-lb-ft V6; 2wd, four-speed automatic



THE FINALISTS

2007 North American Car of the Year Finalists

Honda Fit

Base Price: $14,445

Drivetrain: 1.5-liter, 109-hp, 105-lb-ft I4; fwd, five-speed manual


Toyota Camry

Base Price: $18,890

Drivetrain: 2.4-liter, 158-hp, 161-lb-ft I4; fwd, five-speed manual



2007 North American Truck of the Year Finalists


Ford Edge

Base Price: $25,995

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter, 265-hp, 250-lb-ft V6; fwd, six-speed automatic


Mazda CX-7

Base Price: $24,345

Drivetrain: 2.3-liter, 244-hp, 258-lb-ft turbocharged I4; six-speed automatic
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