Chevrolet Corvette Voted North American Car of the Year; Mercedes-Benz ML 320 Wins Truck Honors

5 January 1998

Chevrolet Corvette Voted North American Car of the Year; Mercedes-Benz ML 320 Wins Truck Honors

    DETROIT, Jan. 5 -- The 1998 Chevrolet Corvette was voted the
North American Car of the Year by a panel of independent journalists.  The
Mercedes-Benz ML 320 sport-utility vehicle won North American Truck of the
Year honors by the same jury.  The awards were presented today at the 1998
North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
    In accepting the car award, Chevrolet General Manager John Middlebrook
said the Corvette is being recognized not only by the journalist jurors voting
on the awards but also by buyers as representing "the right combination" of
sports car attributes and value.  The Corvette's base price starts at under
$40,000; currently a nearly five-month backlog of orders exists.
    The 48 journalists who serve on the awards jury agreed.  They noted the
Corvette, which made its worldwide debut at last year's auto show, combines a
comfortable interior, quick acceleration, outstanding handling and a
comfortable ride with value.
    The award was the second win in the five years of the award for Chevrolet,
which won the North American Truck of the Year award for the Blazer.
    Journalists voted the ML 320 the North American Truck of the Year for
setting new standards for ride, handling, comfort and safety in a sport-
utility vehicle as well as value.  The M-Class starts at about $35,000.  A
backlog of orders prompted Mercedes to recently increase production of the M-
Class, built in Alabama, to 80,000 units a year in 1998 from 65,000.
    "The M-Class represents an important point in our history," said Jurgen
Hubbert, Daimler-Benz board of management member in charge of Mercedes-Benz
passenger cars.  "It is the first vehicle to be built outside of Germany at a
new plant in Alabama.  It's an honor to be recognized for taking these risks
and shows we are on the right track with our product offensive."
    The award was the third for Mercedes in five years.  The C-Class won car
honors in the inaugural year of the awards.  The SLK roadster won the car
award in 1997.
    The journalist jurors reviewed 33 cars and trucks, assigning points to
each vehicle.  The points are based upon vehicle characteristics such as
styling, spaciousness, handling and engine capabilities.  The vehicles
accumulating the most points win the awards.
    The Corvette was selected from 24 cars nominated for the award.  The field
was narrowed to three finalists in December.  In the final tally, the Corvette
received 182 votes; the Audi A6 took 137; and the Lexus GS300/400 received 127
votes.
    The ML 320 was chosen from nine trucks.  The ML 320 received the most
votes -- 352 -- of the three finalists by a wide margin.  The Dodge Durango
took 284 points; the Subaru Forester received 158 votes.
    To be eligible for the 1998 awards, the cars and trucks must have been
introduced into the North American market between Dec. 15, 1996 and Dec. 15,
1997.  Cars must have anticipated sales of at least 5,000 units a year; trucks
require expected sales of 2,000 units annually.  Vehicles must be all new or
have significant design, structural or mechanical changes from a previous year
in order to be eligible.

SOURCE  North American Car and Truck of the Year

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