Ford Motor Co. dominated the first big award of the 2021 automotive season — the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year — claiming two wins. The Ford F-150 took home Truck of the Year while the Blue Oval’s first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, won Utility of the Year. Hyundai Elantra’s won for Car of the Year.
The 28th annual NACTOY awards are one of the auto industry’s most prestigious. Selected by an independent group of 50 journalists from across North America (including the author of this article), the prize honors new vehicles that have raised the standards and become new benchmarks for their classes. “It is always a complex process to bring a vehicle of this magnitude to market,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president of the Americas and International Markets Group, on receiving the award for the 14th generation of the best-selling F-150. “It was a process made even more complex by COVID.”
Ford has been the best-selling truck in America for 44 straight years, with a model line that offers models ranging from $30,000 work trucks to luxurious Limited models with sticker prices north of $70k. The F-150 offers countless configurations across six different powertrains with a hybrid option offered for the first time in 2021. Detroit automakers dominate the pickup segment and the F-150 beat out two other formidable truck models, the off road-oriented Jeep Gladiator Mojave and the first 700-horse pickup, the Ram 1500 TRX.
The SUV category was the year’s most contested as automakers have flooded the market with models to satisfy consumers’ unquenchable thirst for all things ute. Of the 43 new vehicles introduced this year, half were SUVs.
The ambitious, battery-powered Mustang Mach-E is Ford’s answer to Tesla Inc.’s successful Model 3 and Model Y model line. The first non-sports car from Ford’s Mustang sub-brand, the Mach-E beat out Genesis’s first SUV, the GV80, and the iconic Land Rover Defender.
“This is really special in so many ways,” said Galhotra. “The Mach-E is the first new member of the Mustang family in a long time. It represents the future of our company.” Though sedans make up a diminishing share of the U.S. auto market, Asian manufacturers like Hyundai continue to devote resources to compact cars as a way to attract entry-level buyers and appeal to consumers who prefer to think outside the SUV box. With its 2021 Elantra, Hyundai offers a comprehensive compact lineup to battle segment leader Honda Civic.
“With bold styling and an impressive list of standard high-tech features, along with multiple configurations that include hybrid and high-performance models, the Elantra confirms Hyundai’s serious commitment to the compact car segment,” The nine finalists for the 2021 model year were weaned from a competitive group of 27 semifinalists judged on criteria including: innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction, and value.