DETROIT -- In the second year since adopting a new award for crossovers and minivans, the popular light trucks have taken over the 2018 lineup contending for North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year awards.
Among the 35 new or redesigned vehicles eligible this year, 20 are crossovers or minivans, including the Audi Q5/SQ5, Buick Enclave, Honda Odyssey and Chevrolet's Traverse and Equinox.
The NACTOY jurors said crossovers and minivans -- or utility vehicles -- required their own award category "because of their increasing importance to buyers, automakers and the industry as a whole," accounting for how they dominate the list of eligible vehicles this year.
Also under consideration for top utility vehicle are the new Volkswagen Atlas and redesigned VW Tiguan, the new Toyota CH-R, Subaru's redesigned Crosstrek, Nissan's new Rogue Sport and the redesigned GMC Terrain.
Up until last year, crossovers, SUVs and minivans competed in the truck category, which this year features only three eligible candidates: the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, and two redesigned SUVs -- the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator.
The realignment accounts for the thin truck lineup this year, which NACTOY President and juror Mark Phelan said called for an adapted definition to include vehicles based on the same basic engineering as a pickup with a significant towing capacity.
"One of the primary reasons that people buy these vehicles, and also for vehicles like the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator -- is the ability to tow really big, heavy trailers," said Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press. "And that's something that a pickup can do, and that some vehicles like an Expedition, that are based on the same chassis engineering like a pickup, can do."
The new Alfa Romeo Giulia, revamped Porsche Panamera, new Tesla Model 3, BMW 5 series, Lexus LC 500, Hyundai Ioniq, and Honda Clarity and Accord are among the 13 contenders for Car of the Year.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car, Honda Ridgeline pickup and Chrysler Pacifica minivan were named 2017 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year in January at the Detroit auto show.
The awards for best car, truck and utility are selected by a jury of 60 American and Canadian automotive journalists, and will be handed out in January during the Detroit auto show.
The 2018 winners will be chosen after three rounds of voting, the first of which begins in September. Each award will have three finalists, which will be disclosed in conjunction with the Los Angeles auto show in late November.
The NACTOY jury includes Automotive News Engineering Reporter Richard Truett and Senior Editor Sharon Silke Carty.