Tesla Model 3 Is The Only American Car Eligible For This Year’s North American Car of The Year

4 months ago by Christopher Smith 77

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

It’s the first time in the award’s history that Detroit automakers haven’t had a car in the running, but America is still represented by California automaker Tesla with the Model 3.

The times they are a changin’. Bob Dylan called it back in 1964, and though we highly doubt he was referring to the future of the auto industry, his classic song never the less applies to the current reality facing Detroit automakers. The eligibility list for the prestigious 2018 North American Car of the Year award has been announced, and for the first time in the history of the ceremony, there isn’t a single car from Detroit in the running.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 “release candidates” hint at upcoming color choices for July configurator release

This is sure to be a point of discussion for many of you out there, but before the opinions start flying about quality or design let’s consider the eligibility requirements to make the cut in the first place. Aside from being a legitimately good car, the vehicle must also be new or substantially updated for the model year in question. Taking a quick look through current American cars, we find there really isn’t anything from General Motors, Ford, or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that meets this criteria.

Does that mean Detroit is just in a bit of a lull right now for cars? Possibly, but there’s also the ever-growing market of sport-utility and crossover vehicles that are quickly replacing the traditional car as the primary mode of family transportation. There’s no question the segment is quickly expanding, and to that end American manufacturers do have five vehicles in the running for the North American Utility of the Year Award. Specifically, they are the Equinox and Traverse from Chevrolet, the Buick Enclave, the GMC Terrain, and the Jeep Compass.

Meanwhile, Japanese and German automakers dominate the Car of the Year list. The Accord and Clarity from Honda made the cut, joined by the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Camry, and Lexus LC500. Audi’s A5 Sportback and the BMW 5-Series are there, along with the Porsche Panamera and Mini Clubman. Alfa Romeo made the list with its new Giulia sedan, while South Korea is represented by the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Stinger.

Detroit may have missed this year’s Car of the Year awards, but America is still represented. Rounding out the eligibility list is the Tesla Model 3, a car that’s been hotly anticipated for some time now, with the first production Model 3 rolling off the line this past weekend (first delivery party on July 28th).

Last year the Chevrolet Bolt received the coveted North American Car of the Year Award – could another electric American capture the win for 2018? We think so.

Here is the full 2018 eligibility list via North American Car of the Year:

2018 Eligibility List from North America Car of the Year.org

Source: North American Car of the Year Awards, CNBC

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77 responses to "Tesla Model 3 Is The Only American Car Eligible For This Year’s North American Car of The Year"

  1. unlucky says:

    This happened apparently because people still pretend SUVs/CUVs aren’t cars.

    If it’s designed to carry primarily people it’s a car. Calling it a truck or a “utility” is bizarre. There aren’t separate awards for coupes or wagons. Why for wagons that are jacked up an inch?

      1. Nathanael says:

        They say that SUVs aren’t cars so that they can comply with the weaker “truck” pollution emission standards, rather than the stricter “car” pollution emission standards. In short, SUVs are “trucks” so they can pollute more.

        Now you know. This silliness will probably go away once all vehicles are electric.

        1. TomArt says:

          Yep, hence the higher ground clearance.

    1. Nada says:

      Because if you call SUVs a car they would realy fall into the station wagon class and if you call it a station wagon no one will buy one…

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        I personally think a SUV is in the truck family.

        1. Stimpy says:

          Why? Because it sits higher?

          The vast majority of them are modified cars at best.

          1. Rob Stark says:

            An SUV is a body on frame vehicle. It is a truck.

            A Crossover is a unibody vehicle like a car and should be classified in the same class as a wagon.

        2. thalastdon says:

          Maybe because they commonly share a chassis with a truck from the same manufacturer.

          1. nsomnac says:

            That’s actually not true very much anymore with the exception of the largest SUV’s.

            The Highlander and RAV4 sit on a Camry. The Pathfinder on a Altima or Maxima. The GM family of mid size are on a Cruze, The Explorer and Escape are on a Fusion and Focus… X5 & X3 are on 5 and 3 series. Range Rvover Evoke is a rebadged Escape. The frame is the same, they just reconfigure the exterior shell and tweak the styling a bit (and sometimes the engine tuning).

            Very few SUV’s are made on truck frames because of CAFE regulations.

      2. Tom says:

        The VW Golf Alltrack vs the VW Golf SportWagon with AWD has exactly 1 inch clearance and some black plastic as a difference and there is between $5500 and $10,000 price difference.

        Also I bought a 2000 Hyundai Elantra Wagon new once….well in 2000 to be precise. The dealer was an older gentlemen and he said I was lucky as it was the last one he was getting. Said he couldn’t keep them on the lot they were so popular but had trouble getting them and Hyundai had turned off the spigot. I said why? He said ‘see that over there?’ It was the all new very first Hyundai SUV. He walked me over to it and showed me that it was exactly the same vehicle down to the last detail but was jacked up two inches and had AWD as an option. Yes these days obviously Hyundai has more of an array but this one was EXACTLY the same. And then he said ‘because I can charge $5000 more for this one’. I came back 3 months later and bought another Hyundai from him. Last car dealer I have ever spoken to that I liked. Looked like he was getting ready to retire and I had two little kids on modest income and he was just trying to get me a good car that stretched my buck.

        1. Steven says:

          In 2000, my wife was still enjoying her ’99 Elantra GL, and I was still keeping my ’93 Excel moving under it’s own power.

          In ’02 the Excel made way for my ’02 Elatra GT (often mistaken for a SAAB 9³)

          In ’04, my wife decided her Elantra lost it’s sparkle and traded for a ’04 Santa Fe.

          I drove my Elanta GT till the wheels fell off (literally) and replaced it in ’14 with a Sonata.

          Yeah, we’re a Hyundai family, and I’m p!ssed off that the IONIQ BEV won’t (as of now) be sold in Pennsylvania.

      3. Paul Smith says:

        Subaru Outback.

    2. La Frennia di Mamata says:

      I wonder if anyone out there can confirm if the M3 body will be steel or aluminum…

      1. Murrysville EV says:

        The Model 3 has a steel body, something Tesla stated a long time ago. I don’t think it has changed, due to much higher mfg costs for aluminum.

        1. Paul Smith says:

          I believe they said they will use more steel, but not exclusively.

        2. Steel body structure, but with Aluminum Skins, as stated. Probably Bonding joints with high tech adhesives.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Well said, Unlucky.

      Good grief, they’re even classifying CUVs as “not a car”, despite the fact they are built on a car frame or unibody?

      Just how many tiny pigeonholes do auto makers think the category of “light duty passenger vehicles” should be divided up into?

      1. Aaron says:

        It’s for marketing. That’s how Jeep can say their new SRT Grand Cherokee is the fastest SUV on the planet — because Ward’s Auto classifies the Tesla Model X as a crossover.

    4. philip d says:

      Especially the Compact Utility Vehicle class. That’s the most tortured made up classification you could dream up.

    5. pjwood1 says:

      Auto-makers are taking refuge in “Light Trucks”, as requirements are less strict. Between 2022-2025, the way the CAFE rule stands, there will be a lot more PHEV SUVs. This is driving EPA (car makers) review of the rule, as I understand it.

      If people think only Tesla is down partly on the Volvo news, so is Workhorse. Volvo will make hybrids, and somehow an F150 PHEV/EREV, with ~60KWh, won’t sell?

      1. unlucky says:

        I thought that disaster of a system was undone last year.

        1. Nathanael says:

          Nope. They did tighten the rules for “light trucks” but they’ve still got separate categories. 🙁

          Hopefully this will all become irrelevant every vehicle is electric, when fuel-powered vehicles are banned, like France is doing.

    6. thatsnothowitis says:

      If I cannot see the car in front of the car in front of me, the car in front of me should not be considered a car.

      1. Mikael says:

        You only need tinted windows on the car in front of you for that to happen…

  2. leafowner says:

    The model 3 could be the car of the Decade….

    1. Devin Serpa says:

      Wow, and coming from a LEAF owner too.

      I’d have to say it’s a tie between the LEAF and Model 3. Can’t ignore the LEAF success in making EVs go into the practical category. Making them go mainstream is the Model 3…

      1. Tom says:

        I owned a LEAF for 3.5 years and I can forget it….

        1. La Frennia di Mamata says:

          It’s like your 1st Love, how can you ever forget !. l m a o..

    2. James says:

      This thread opens with “unlucky” a known Tesla basher claiming Model 3 unjustly becomes the candidate for NACY only because CUVs aren’t included in the voting!


      Try Tesla Model 3 – INTERNATIONAL CAR OF THE ERA!

      No car, truck or CUV intended for 30,000 units per year can or should be considered for any “OF THE YEAR” award.

      GM has sold 22,000 Volts per year consistently and that, my friend, will never change the world. Neither will GM’s promise of 30,000 Bolt EVs. It’s no matter of whether a CUV is a car or not.

      I truly appreciate Volt as an engineering wonder and Bolt EV as an accomplishment.

      Pacifica Hybrid – North American Car Of The Year! Oh wait – they made 1700 of them and recalled every one!

      Truly – we wait to see if Tesla can sell 300-500,000 Model 3s — THAT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD fellas!

      1. unlucky says:

        I said no such thing. And you will notice no one else (even Pushy, who isn’t afraid to call me out) interpreted my post that way.

        My comment was not that it should not be eligible. My comment was that the process where it became the ONLY North American car eligible was via a dumb definition of car.

        If you look at the list, the vehicles under “utility” should be under the “car” classification.

        That would add the following North American (“domestic”) cars to consideration:
        Buick Enclave
        Chevrolet Equinox
        GMC Terrain
        Jeep Compass

        As to what should win, it’s too early for me to make up my mind. I’d put the Model 3 high on the list, but I’d need to know the price, range and a lot of other info first. And I don’t have that yet. So I wouldn’t have a final decision. Luckily a final decision isn’t necessary yet. We’ll have that info on the Model 3 within a month I think, and that’ll be plenty of time to give it proper consideration for the award.

        1. James says:

          Not sure why you call yourself unlucky – but when smarts are required, often luck has nothin’ to do with it.

          That list of cars you offered up?

          You say it’s too early to decide which one is more significant and better? Whoa – I’m not sure if your entire process of thought is in the same universe as mine.

          One is the epic machine that may and probably will open up an entire new era in motoring. The others are just cars.

          Hmmm… Tough decision….

          Let me further clarify. WHich is more significant, the Ford Model T or…a Buick Riviera, Jeep Cherokee or a Datsun 510? WOW! Such a tough choice…I’m gonna have to ponder that one for awhile.

          HA! WHOA!

          1. unlucky says:

            What about the list of cars I offered up? It’s the list of North American make cars which would be on the cars list if utilities weren’t classified separately.

            I refuse to apologize for waiting to count chickens before they hatch. There is no need to rush into selecting a winner before the info on the Model 3 is in. It’ll be in with plenty of time before the voting occurs.

            Getting more information is never a bad thing.

  3. RM says:

    Fun (future) fact: The 2016 Chevy Camaro will go down in history as the last ICE vehicle to ever win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year…

    1. Bacardi says:

      On one hand, I’d take a Vegas bet that an ICE would win again…

      On the otherhand, the M3 that wins the award will most likley be available only with the largest battery and RWD…So for 2018 we’d expect a lot of new options and configurations so it is possible for MY18 along with all that demand that the M3 could win back to back years…

  4. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

    but, bi but……where’s the Hydrogen cars.


    1. Vexar says:

      They are collecting dust in the Toyota parking lot in Torrance, CA. I have pictures. All six of them!

      1. Mark.ca says:

        Let’s see!

  5. DJ says:

    How can a car that isn’t even available be listed as a possible contender in a just released list for “car of the year”??

    Shouldn’t it, oh I dunno, be available for people to actually check out and review before it’s included on the list?

    It may very well be deserving of being on the list but the fact that it isn’t even available nor has a production vehicle been able to be checked out and reviewed just shows how completely BS these lists and awards are.

    1. RM says:

      DJ — It’s JULY. The car will ship at the end of this month. We’re still in 2017.

      The Bolt won last year’s Motor Trend’s car of the year by shipping 579 vehicles at the end of December.

      1. DJ says:

        The issue I take is that how the hell do they know if it should be on the list???

        Have they sat down and drove one around for awhile? Cuz I doubt it!

        Now, fast forward to 2018, if the cars are released and they’ve been driven and reviewed and it wins the 2017 NA COTY award more power to it.

        It’s like they’re assigning an award for something that no one actually has yet.

        And yes, if they named the Bolt the winner in July of 2016 I’d have the same issue although weren’t the press able to get their hands on some for detailed testing mid year?

        1. floydboy says:

          It’s a Tesla. THAT’S the issue you take. Unless of course, all those posts bashing Tesla at every turn, are coincidence?

          1. DJ says:

            That’s actually not it at all, as I stated VERY clearly, but thanks for helping to continue the view that Tesla has a huge dumb ass following that can’t comprehend anything.

            1. floydboy says:

              Ooooh! You resort to such childish nonsense as usual. There is no other way to interpet your post as other than your typical bashing!

        2. Nix says:

          DJ — The Bolt got its Motor Trend Car of the Year, Green Car Journal’s Green Car of the Year, and Car & Driver 10 Best awards before a single Bolt was even delivered.

          On the other hand, the North American Car Of The Year award isn’t going to be announced until Jan 2018. And in case you didn’t notice, the first Model 3 was delivered over the weekend.

          So I’m not so sure what your concerns are?

          Are you contending that between now and Jan 2018 that nobody will get to drive one?

          (PS — some of the awards are more bogus than others. Some awards require the the car maker to pay for them. Yes, some are completely bogus.)

          1. DJ says:

            Seriously? How the F do you guys not get this.

            There is a list that says this car may be the NA COTY yet they haven’t gotten to do anything with it. They’re putting this car on the list because of some viewpoint they have formed in their head based on pics, tweets, and a website with some specs. Is that really all a car is???

            I don’t care if it’s a Tesla, a Chevy, or a Honda for that matter.

            How the hell can you have a list of the best with a car when you haven’t actually been able to do anything with it.

            Had they come out in January of 2018 and said here is the list and here is the winner for 2017 NA COTY and the Tesla was on it somewhere then I wouldn’t have any issue with it, nor would the other people here who get it. The issue is that supposedly the Model 3 is one of the best cars yet they haven’t gotten to test it.

            Got it?

            1. John Ray says:

              DJ – I feel ya’ when it comes to the Tesla fanboi-ism. But really all the article is saying is that it is eligible for the award. The car will still have to be evaluated.

            2. NIX says:

              DJ said: “They’re putting this car on the list because of some viewpoint they have formed in their head based on pics, tweets, and a website with some specs.”

              Yes, that is exactly how it got on the short list.

              Same with the 2018 Kia Stinger, also on the short list, also not available yet and won’t be available until after the TM3, and none of the 57 journalists voting on the short list have likely driven one.

              Same with the 2018 BMW 5-Series. On the list, not scheduled for release until after the TM3, nobody has driven one.

              Same with the 2018 Subaru Impreza. On the list, not scheduled for release until after the TM3, nobody has driven one.

              ETC… ETC… ETC…


              Does your faux outrage extend to those and many other cars being on the list too? Or have you FINALLY come to understand that this is pretty much how this works for an award for NEW or SUBSTANTIALLY CHANGED car models that simply don’t exist for any of them to drive at this point in the year? Do you even understand how car makers release new Model Years of cars? Of course nobody has driven them yet.

              Your inability to understand how this award selection process works, doesn’t make anybody else ignorant, it makes YOU ignorant.

              This is a list of contenders, of which they will select 1 car. If you think there is some wonderful car that is missing from the list that is MORE of a potential contender than any of these cars that nobody has driven either, you should complain to them. I’m sure they get foolish cranks doing that all the time.


              stick your F’s and your H’s and your insults up your A, boy child.

              1. floydboy says:

                THANK YOU!

        3. Unplugged says:

          I hesitate inserting myself into a string where Nix has pretty much correctly summed up a critique of your posts, but here goes.

          The nominees for Car of the Year (COTY) are determined by a rather simple process: The automakers give Motor Trend a list of new or updated models and Motor Trend adds the car, or SUV, or etc. as a nominee.

          It’s really that simple. If a car is new or updated sufficiently, it makes the list of nominees.

    2. Devin Serpa says:

      Lots of cars get added for the proceeding year, even without a previous model year version. The 2018 Tesla is no different. Once it does get reviewed it will probably win.

    3. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

      This happened when the Bolt won awards before it was even available. Same for the Volt I think.
      I agree with you, shouldn’t we be able to kick the tires and lay tread on the asphalt for it to qualify?!?!?!?

      1. La Frennia di Mamata says:

        Yea really..Makes no sense..

  6. Brave Lil' Toaster says:

    I don’t get it. Do they think that the Chevy Bolt is terrible? It seems to qualify in every other metric – It’s an all-new design, and it was released this year.

    1. Anti-Lord Kelvin says:

      Wrong.:) It had been released last year (579 cars sold in December) and actually WON the 2017 best car award! Now, we are speaking about the 2018 award.

    2. Bacardi says:

      Perhaps if you, you know, read the article, you’d see it did win last year and in order to win again it’ll needs to be all new or have signifacant changes…The Bolt EV had it’s first deliveries as a MY17 in December 2016…

  7. Ocean Railroader says:

    What was funny was today I saw them start construction on a new gas station.

    It’s going to be interesting seeing the gas stations drop like flies now with 20,000 Tesla Model 3’s coming out every few weeks.

    1. Kdawg says:

      Gonna take a lot of weeks to replace 265 million gassers.

      Approximately 250 years.

      1. Nix says:

        Yup. And each year that goes by, there are even more gas cars to replace.

        That’s why it is so important for there to be a wide variety of SUCCESSFUL companies that build viable EV’s and PHEV’s. Tesla can be a revolution alone. This whole plug-in thing will fail if it is just Tesla building 20k cars a week.

      2. Nathanael says:

        It takes about 25 years. Map out the exponential projection, you’ll see.

    2. (⌐■_■) Trollnonymous says:

      What’s sad is I watched 3 large parking lots, about 350 spots total, and not one EVSE installed in them.

  8. Vexar says:

    Uh… Gas stations are closing already:
    [2015: 152,995 total retail fueling sites ]
    [2011: 159,006 fueling stations]

    And I quote:
    “There were 152,995 total retail fueling sites in the United States in 2013, the last year measured by the now-defunct National Petroleum News’ MarketFacts. This was a steep and steady decline since 1994, when the station count topped 202,800 sites.”

    And that’s why the 2016 figures are deliberately buried truths in page 3:

    To parse for 2016, it says 124,000 retail locations sell fuel. But, in 2015, it said 127,000 retail locations are selling fuel. They are still claiming 80% of all fuel sales locations are convenience stores. However, in 2015, the figure was actually 83% if you go off the numbers for both and calculate some fractions. If that number is the same, then total gas stations dropped to 149,000 in the US.

    At steady state decline, it will take 50 years for gas stations to completely evaporate in this country. The reality is that in <10 years in some countries, and <20 years in others announced, there will be no more gas stations. The rate of closures is increasing if you look at the rate from 1994 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2016.

    I have a bet going on when the first Valvoline location (oil change shop) will close. When we see it, there will be a party!

    1. Nix says:

      Over that time period, by far the largest impact on the number of gas stations has been mergers within the petroleum industry.

      For example, once competitors who tried to out-build each other with new gas stations to compete with each other, Texaco and Chevron merged. Now instead of trying to have a station everywhere the other company had one.

      Same for ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, and BP/ARCO/AMOCO, etc.

      The flurry of mergers from 1998 to 2002 allowed the “Supermajors” to actually reduce the number of gas stations over time, while increasing sales, profits, and profit margins that continues today.

      Better MPG, some alternative fuels, grocery store gas stations, larger super-stations with way more pumps than decades before, and longer ranges for cars also play a role. EV’s are not YET the major cause. Hopefully that will change soon…

  9. Helder Pinto says:

    I honestly believe the Model 3 is the most important car of the last few decades. So yes, it’ll absolutely get car of the year next year.

  10. msrural says:

    “North American Car of the Year.” I assume that means those European and Japanese models are built on the NA continent?

    1. Nix says:

      The North American means the award comes from 57 Canadian and US (North American) automotive journalists for cars that will be sold in the North American market.

      As opposed to the “Car of the Year” award, which is awarded by European car journalists for cars available in the European market:


      1. Mikael says:

        No journalists from the 21 other North American countries?

        1. Nix says:

          They don’t participate in what is defined as the “North American Market”, where the US and Canada have agreed to cooperate on setting a number of standards to effectively create a single market for car makers to sell in.

          If/when those other nations want to join in on those standards, they could also join what is defined as the “North American Market”.

    2. unlucky says:

      No. The “North American” part now refers to the area in which the award is given, nothing about the vehicle itself.

      The car only has to be available (or announced to be made available) in North America.

  11. Delta says:

    Of course it will win the award. It is the most anticipated and important car this millennium.

    Tesla must sell 400,000 of these a year – numbers that rival Toyota Corolla or Camry sales.

    By this time next year – they will be building 1100 Model 3 A DAY… equal to all other EV`s combined…

    Wow – just thinking about that is shocking. It is hard to believe how they could move that much product.

    1. James says:

      I am hopeful they can pull it off.

      If they do – and there aren’t line ups at Tesla service centers and bad press about a car with many flaws – it will be an epic success story. Right up there with Model T and the Volkswagen Beetle.

      So many enemies, so many industries afraid that the Model 3 will break through the wall of unaffordable exciting and practical electric motoring.

  12. Mark.ca says:

    These type of initial quality awards are useless. I will love to see evs get reliably awards, efficiency awards and such.

    1. Nix says:

      Mark, you’ve got the wrong award. I believe you are referring to the JD Powers Initial Quality award, which is an award that car makers pay 300,000 per award for.

      This is a different award. It is done by a group of automobile journalists, I think even including some journalists who have contributed to the Motor1 family of outlets?

  13. Longvsshort says:

    From this angle and the person sitting in the car looks a very crammed cabin and very little ground clearance.

  14. Empire State says:

    There are 12 other cars, along with the Model 3, listed as being eligible for this award this year. There are many more competitors for the Utility of the Year award, and only 3 for the Truck of the Year. The fact that the Model 3 is the only eligible car from a North America based manufacturer is significant because historically the awards have more frequently than not been granted to vehicles whose manufacturers based in North America.

  15. Haggy says:

    The only catch is that the Model 3 coming out is a 2017 because Tesla doesn’t play stupid games with years. Chances are good that the 2018 will be the same but may have more options.

  16. John S Lane says:

    The manufacturers themselves set the title of the vehicles in question. If they call a car a car, it’s a car, of it’s an SUV, it’s an SUV. The function of the vehicle in the real world is unimportant because it may have more than one function, otherwise a unibody SUV could be considered for both, car and SUV and we cannot allow that. What we think is irrelevant as it is. If it did, then we would all rush or and buy a new vehicle based upon whether it was COTY or not, which if this is the case, YOU are falling for the hype generated and you get what you deserve, which is fine with me.

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