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COVER STORY

HYUNDAI MOTOR MANUFACTURING ALABAMA


2012 North American Car of the Year: Hyundai Elantra

February 2012

By David Zaslawsky

Photography by Robert Fouts

The news of the Elantra being named the 2012 North American Car of the Year stunned a Hyundai Motor America executive.

“ … We are very surprised and humbled,” John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, told MSN Autos shortly after learning about the prestigious award. “It’s an amazing honor.”

The Elantra beat out the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Passat, which Krafcik told MSN Autos were “amazing” and “incredible,” respectively. The Elantra and the Korean automaker’s Sonata are produced at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama facility in Montgomery.

“Elantra speaks to the success of our recipe of bold design and great fuel economy,” Krafcik said in a statement at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “In a year with some truly breakthrough competitors, we are honored that the jury recognizes Elantra’s far-reaching impact on the industry.”

The jury that Krafcik referred to is a group of automotive journalists who select the overall winners and finalists for the 2012 North American Car of the Year and the 2012 North American Truck of the Year. The Truck of the Year was the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque.

The Elantra, which starts at $16,445, gets an estimated 33 miles per gallon and 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

Krafcik told reporters that winning the 2012 North American Car of the Year award “should be helpful for our brand going forward.”

The competition is fierce to be even named a finalist for the 2012 North American awards.

The list is continually whittled and jurors were asked to select the three car finalists from a list of 17. Some of the vehicles on that list of 17 were the Audi A6 and A7, Chrysler 300/SRT-8, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius V and Volkswagen Beetle. Hyundai had three vehicles on the short list: Accent, Elantra and Veloster.

Hyundai has been receiving this type of accolade for the past few years. The Sonata was a 2011 finalist for North American Car of the Year. The Chevy Volt was the winner last year. In 2009, Hyundai’s Genesis was named North American Car of the Year.

The three finalists for 2012 North American Truck of the Year were BMW X3, Honda CR-V and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque from a list of seven candidates.

Only vehicles that are “all new or substantially changed” are eligible for the competition. The vehicles are judged on various factors including design, safety, handling, value for the dollar and driver satisfaction.The finalists and overall winners are selected by automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.