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No bragging rights for 4 automakers

Buick, Saturn, Kia and Mercedes get ousted in the initial tally for car and truck of the year.

September 22, 2004|Jim Mateja | Chicago Tribune

"It might have been."

Can't remember who said those were the saddest words.

Perhaps Dusty Baker.

Whoever.

After awaiting a 2005 model-year debut, 15 nameplates have been whittled from the candidates for North American Car and Truck of the Year honors by the nation's automotive press.

Not in the showrooms yet and no chance to capture industry bragging rights. There isn't even a congeniality trophy for the also-rans.

Each year the panel of 50 automotive journalists, this scribe included, sits down with a list of all the cars and trucks that are new or substantially revised and reduces the count to a manageable number before making a selection.

The first casualties are noteworthy because four automakers lost both their candidates.

The Buick LaCrosse replacement for the Regal and Century and first in a line of new models designated to help bring Buick back to sales respectability was dumped, as was the Buick Terraza, a crossover sport van that looks like a sport- utility vehicle but acts like a minivan.

But Buick has company. Mercedes-Benz also lost two vehicles: The CLS coupe and SLK roadster were lopped. Perhaps some journalists still haven't gotten over the fact that in the DaimlerChrysler merger it was Chrysler that got merged.

Saturn had both its Relay crossover sport van and Ion Red Line coupe eliminated while both the Kia Rio and Spectra were ousted.

Others out early include the Chevy Uplander and Pontiac Montana CSVs, obviously an indication that no matter what it looks like, acting like a minivan doesn't bode well when vying for car and truck of the year honors.

The Honda Odyssey, which looks and acts like a minivan, is still in the running, though the only time a van won "car" of the year honors was in 1996 before the term "soccer mom" was popularized. The Chrysler minivans beat out the Ford Taurus and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans that year.

Others missing the first cut were the Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, Hyundai Accent, Saab 9-2X, Subaru Outback and Suzuki Reno.

The Ford Five Hundred sedan is still on the list for Car of the Year honors, but its cousin the Mercury Montego isn't.

Who said life was fair?

Just ask Buick, Mercedes -- and Saturn and Kia for that matter.

Of the new cars for '05, these remain in the running: the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 6-Series, Cadillac STS, Chevrolet Cobalt and Corvette, Chrysler 300/300C, Dodge Magnum, Ford Five Hundred and Mustang, Honda Odyssey and Accord gas/electric hybrid, Pontiac G6, Porsche 911, Scion tC, Subaru Legacy and Volvo S40/V50.

North American Truck of the Year contenders are the Chevrolet Equinox; Dodge Dakota; Ford Escape hybrid, Freestyle and F-Series Super Duty; Hyundai Tucson; Infiniti QX56; Jeep Grand Cherokee; Land Rover LR3; Nissan Pathfinder and Frontier; and Toyota Tacoma.

Voting is in December, after which a final three in each category are named.

The winners are announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

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