DETROIT (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co’s Elantra won car of the year honors at the Detroit auto show on Monday, a marketing boost for the car with the fastest sales growth in the Korean automaker’s line-up.
The Range Rover Evoque, a compact crossover with a four-cylinder engine, was named truck of the year.
The North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, which are given out at the start of the Detroit auto show, are coveted as a kind of a seal of approval that automakers use heavily in advertising.
It was the second time that Hyundai has won the award, which is given out by a panel of 50 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada. In 2009, Hyundai’s Genesis luxury sedan was named car of the year.
“There was no question that made a difference in the perception of the brand,” said John Krafcik, Hyundai’s U.S. sales chief.
Sales of the Elantra shot up by 40 percent in 2011, making it the No. 3 seller in the crowded compact car market led by the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic in the United States. Hyundai edged out the Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Focus, the other two car of the year finalists.
The Evoque is the lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover the company has ever built. Executives said they hoped the award would give a lift to the brand in its largest market.
It was the first time Land Rover has won. The other finalists were the BMW X3 and the Honda CR-V.
“I can tell you that we are going to market the hell out of this,” said Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America.
Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India’s Tata Motors.
Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Dave Zimmerman