The Kia Telluride SUV was named 2020 World Car of the Year Wednesday in a low-key presentation announced on video.
The U.S.-built Telluride was competing against a shortlist of the Mazda3 and the Mazda CX-30 for the prestigious title. It was a double win for Kia, which became the first Korean manufacturer to win a World Car title. The Kia Soul EV was also announced as the World Urban Car.
“We’re ecstatic with the win. We all need good news at time like this,” said Michael Cole, president of Kia Motors America. “We think we brought the perfect vehicle to the market at the right time – a big, bold, boxy SUV. It’s been an absolute storm for us.”
The Kia Soul EV competed against the shortlisted Mini Electric and the Volkswagen T-Cross for the title of World Urban Car. “We know that globally, electric vehicles are almost at a tipping point, so becoming established as a brand that offers great electrified-vehicle technology is very important to us,” said Cole.
This is the 16th edition of the annual World Car of the Year Awards, and for the last 15, the announcement of the final winners has taken place at the New York auto show. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York show is postponed to August. The Javits Centre, where it was to be held, is now a temporary emergency hospital.
“We had three choices,” said Gerry Malloy, a director on the World Car of the Year committee. “We could do it now, we could postpone it or we could cancel the whole thing for the year. But neither postponing nor cancelling were deemed to have any significant benefits over doing it right now. It’s certainly not a big celebration, but we’re simply putting the information out there.
“If and when people go shopping again, they have this information.”
All testing of the eligible vehicles was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic became widespread outside China, and the deadline for final voting was February 14.
“This will be relevant when car sales begin again,” said Malloy. “That seems likely to happen at a different rate in different parts of the world. Some car production has already started in China, but the schedules for starting back up in Europe and North America are all over the place.”
This year’s awards also recognized the World Luxury Car, World Performance Car and World Car Design of the Year. All vehicles were judged on considerations of value, performance, safety, environment, safety, emotional appeal, comfort, innovation and market significance.
It was a double win for Porsche: the all-electric Porsche Taycan was announced as both World Performance Car and World Luxury Car. “The Taycan should, and will, be our icon for the new world. It’s very sporty, but it’s also a luxury car,” said Michael Steiner, head of Research and Development for Porsche AG in Germany. “We’re proud and thankful for this double win, and it will lead to even better cars in the future.”
The Mazda3 was declared World Car Design of the Year, competing against the Peugeot 208 and the Taycan.
All vehicles sold on at least two continents are eligible for consideration as a World Car, and there is no cost to manufacturers to enter. Vehicles are evaluated by a jury of 86 automotive journalists from 26 different countries, including this reporter.
Mark Richardson is a juror for the World Car of the Year awards.
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