The Bolt was named North American Car of the Year, beating two conventionally powered luxury sedans, the Genesis G90 and the Volvo S90, in an announcement delivered at the North American International Auto Show.
Several dozen auto journalists who regularly test-drive vehicles vote on the annual awards.
The Chrysler Pacifica minivan was named North American Utility of the Year, the first time the award has been distributed. The Pacifica has been hailed for shedding the traditionally stodgy image of minivans by embracing technology, sleek design and an alternative powertrain.
The Honda Ridgeline pickup was named North American Truck of the Year.
Bolt is the first U.S.-made, mass-market, fully-electric car, beating Tesla Motors' Model 3 to production. The vehicle has a range-per-charge of 238 miles, double most electric cars on the market except those from luxury automaker Tesla. Yet the Bolt, in many cases, is about half the price of Tesla's Model S or X. It just went on sale with a starting price of $37,495 before federal tax credits kick in.
The Bolt was previously named Motor Trend Car of the Year and at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Green Car of the Year. It is not to be confused with the Chevrolet Volt, a pioneering plug-in car with a backup gas engine. Bolt is a pure electric and has no gas engine.
Chevy has been unabashed about trying to get out the message that it's first with a mainstream-priced fully-electric long range car.
“There’s been a lot of talk about building an affordable electric car with a 200-mile range that brings electric vehicles to the mainstream, but only one manufacturer has done that, and it’s us,” Chevrolet marketing manager Steve Majoros said when Bolt won the Green Car award, given for environmentally friendly cars, in November.
Game Changer? Electric Vehicle Chevy Bolt Named Car of the Year
The Chevrolet Bolt EV claimed another significant honor in its bid to prove that battery-electric vehicles no longer need to be segregated into a largely forgotten green ghetto.
The first long-range battery-car to carry a mainstream price tag, Bolt was named North American Car of the Year during a closely watched ceremony marking the opening of the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.
"The market is taking notice of this car, the first to offer a no-excuses reason to drive an electric vehicle," said Mark Reuss, General Motors' global product development director, as he took hold of the newly redesigned NACTOY trophy — which happened to be designed by recently retired GM styling chief Ed Welburn.
The Chevy Bolt EV has received kudos for delivering near car-like range of 238 miles per charge, as well as a price tag that dips just below $30,000 when factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit. That has already earned the new model honors as Motor Trend Car of the Year, and Green Car of the Year.
Reuss and other GM officials say they are hoping that delivers a message to mainstream consumers who may yet be skeptical about the advantages of battery power.
The Bolt EV's win came as the NACTOY awards marked their 24th year. The Chevy battery-car bested two other strong contenders: the new Genesis G90 sedan and the Volvo XC90 — the Swedish sedan sharing the same underpinnings as the Volvo XC90 that won the North American Truck/Utility award in 2016.
The truck and utility vehicle categories were split apart for 2017, reflecting the increasing shift from the passenger car to truck side of the market. And it resulted in another surprise win, this time the new Chrysler Pacifica taking home the Utility Vehicle of the Year honors.
"Despite so many alternatives that have come to market over the past 20 years," said Fiat Chrysler Vice President Tim Kuniskis, "There is no better alternative for a family than the minivan."
What was then known as the Chrysler Corp. is generally credited with creating the modern minivan in 1984, and remained dominant in the segment for nearly three decades. The minivan has lost momentum in recent years, however, as buyers have opted for hipper SUVs and crossovers. Meanwhile, Chrysler saw its minivan sales crown nabbed in 2011 by rival Honda's Odyssey model.
The Pacifica topped both the Mazda CX-9, as well as the F-Pace, the first-ever utility vehicle from the Jaguar side of Jaguar Land Rover.
The third NACTOY trophy was another surprise, the North American Truck of the Year award going to the Honda Ridgeline.
"It's always nice to be vindicated," said Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel.
Honda attempted to change the game nearly a decade ago when it launched the original Ridgeline, adopting a car-based platform, rather than a traditional body-on-frame design. But the midsize model failed to click with consumers and Honda pulled it from the market.
Rather than giving up, however, the Japanese manufacturer gave the Ridgeline a complete makeover for 2017. It stuck with the crossover-style platform but adopted a more truck-like exterior design while adding an assortment of new features — from a trunk-like storage bin to an advanced suite of safety features — that have resonated with consumers, as well as the 60 U.S. and Canadian journalists on the NACTOY jury.
"We've never really been known as a truck company," said Mendel. "It's nice to get to get this sort of recognition going up against some very tough competition."
2017 Chevy Bolt EV electric car wins North American Car of the Year award
Media days at the Detroit Auto Show always open with the announcement of the year's North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, and this year is no exception.
But green-car enthusiasts had a special reason to follow this year's awards, now broken into three categories: car, truck, and utility vehicle.
That was the chance that a battery-electric car, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, would be dubbed the North American Car of the Year—an award that doesn't often go to "green" vehicles.
This morning, the winners were announced. And the Bolt EV was declared the winner of the car category.
At a base price of $37,500 before incentives, GM's 238-mile electric hatchback is the first mass-priced electric car with a range of more than 200 miles.
It has already won numerous awards, including this site's Best Car to Buy title for the year.
The other contenders were the Genesis G90 and Volvo S90. The former is a large luxury four-door sedan from Hyundai's newly renamed luxury arm.
The S90 is the same from the Chinese-owned Swedish company known for safety and durability of its products, which are now moving up toward full luxury status.
The other category to watch for green-car fans was the North America Utility Vehicle of the Year, where the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica was declared the winner. The vehicle is an entirely redesigned version of Fiat Chrysler's legendary minivans.
The Pacifica range that competed for the award includes a plug-in hybrid version, dubbed simply Pacifica Hybrid.
With an EPA-rated 33 miles of range, it is the first and only minivan offering all-electric running, not to mention capacity for eight passengers.
The Jaguar F-Pace, the first utility vehicle from England's Jaguar, is a sporty take on an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle, and has an optional diesel engine.
The third utility contender was the Mazda CX-9, an all-new and sleek version of the Japanese "Zoom-Zoom" brand's largest SUV, which holds up to eight (if the last two are small).
As for the truck category, the three contenders were all pickup trucks: the Ford F-Series Super Duty (gigantic pickup trucks), the Honda Ridgeline, and the Nissan Titan.
In this case, the more car-like Ridgeline was declared the winner. It is the greenest of the three, with unitary construction and only a V-6 engine.
But it's the other two categories where green cars had a major shot at taking home a trophy.