The Motor Trend Car of the Year (COTY) is an annual Car of the Year award given by Motor Trend magazine to recognize the best new or significantly refreshed car in a given model year.[1]

Motor Trend Car of the Year "golden calipers" trophy


Motor Trend, which debuted in 1949, was the first publication to name a Car of the Year. The inaugural Motor Trend Car of the Year award recognized Cadillac's V8 engine in 1949 (74 years ago) (1949).[2]

The earliest awards were given to the manufacturer or division, not for a specific vehicle. The 1958 Ford Thunderbird became the first single model to be selected.[3] In 1970, the Ford Torino won the COTY while Motor Trend selected the Porsche 914 for its first Import COTY award.[4]

In 1972, the low-volume imported Citroën SM won the overall COTY award. Between 1976 and 1999, the COTY award was split in two: Domestic COTY and Import COTY.

The trophy was recombined in 2000 because the distinctions between domestic and import cars became increasingly difficult. The award has expanded to include a pickup truck (starting in 1979) and a separate sport utility vehicle (starting in 1999), which are recognized separately from the Car of the Year.

Over time, other publications and organizations have copied Motor Trend's Car of the Year award and created their own. These COTY designations may focus on regional markets, vehicle types, specific market segments, or other criteria. Some examples include the European Car of the Year that began in 1964 by a collective of automobile magazines, the Green Car of the Year selected by a panel of automotive and environmental experts, the Tow Car of the Year chosen by selected sponsors in the industry, and the Fleet Car of the Year that is voted by professional fleet managers.[5][6]


Motor Trend's Car of the Year is "one of the most prestigious honors bestowed in the auto industry."[7]

The trophy for the winner, a depiction of calipers, is often used in the winning automaker's marketing and advertising.[8][9] Most cars that win the award report a spike in sales.[10][11]


To be eligible for the award, a car must be an "all-new" or "substantially upgraded" vehicle that has been on sale within twelve months from the previous November, vehicles that have been on sale for over five years are ineligible for the award.

Between the contenders, it is not a comparison test. In 2014 as an example, the Motor Trend judges debated and evaluate each vehicle against six key criteria:[12]

Criteria Note
Design Advancement well-executed exterior and interior styling; innovative vehicle packaging; selection of materials
Engineering Excellence vehicle concept and execution; clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; cost-effective technology that benefits the consumer
Efficiency low fuel consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle's competitive set
Safety active: help the driver avoid a crash; secondary: protect occupants from harm during a crash
Value competitive price and equipment levels, measured against vehicles in the same market segment
Performance of Intended Function how well the vehicle does the job its planners, designers, and engineers intended

Motor Trend also only considers cars with base MSRPs less than $100,000 in order to avoid expensive luxury and super cars dominating the competition.[13]

Vehicles are subjected to a battery of tests: standard car tests such as skid-pad ratings, acceleration and quarter-mile times, and evaluations of the interiors are combined with a track run conducted by Sports Car Club of America-licensed testers and taking the cars out on normal roads to test their drivability under normal conditions, and fuel economy. Trucks and SUVs add towing capacity and speed, plus an off-road course, to the normal regimen.

Car of the Year Winners

Note that in 1970 and between 1976-2000, the Car of the Year award was split into two categories, domestic and import.

Year Winner
2024 Toyota Prius
2023 Genesis G90
2022 Lucid Air
2021 Mercedes Benz E-Class
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
2019 Genesis G70
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia / Giulia Quadrifoglio
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
2016 Chevrolet Camaro
2015 Volkswagen Golf
2014 Cadillac CTS
2013 Tesla Model S
2012 Volkswagen Passat
2011 Chevrolet Volt
2010 Ford Fusion
2009 Nissan GT-R
2008 Cadillac CTS
2007 Toyota Camry
2006 Honda Civic
2005 Chrysler 300
2004 Toyota Prius
2003 Infiniti G35
2002 Ford Thunderbird
2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
2000 Lincoln LS
1999 Chrysler 300M
1998 Chevrolet Corvette
1997 Chevrolet Malibu
1996 Dodge Caravan
1995 Chrysler Cirrus
1994 Ford Mustang
1993 Ford Probe GT
1992 Cadillac Seville Touring Sedan (STS)
1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic LTZ
1990 Lincoln Town Car
1989 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe
1988 Pontiac Grand Prix
1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
1986 Ford Taurus LX
1985 Volkswagen GTI (built at Volkswagen's Pennsylvania plant)
1984 Chevrolet Corvette
1983 Renault Alliance (built at AMC's Wisconsin plant)
1982 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1981 Chrysler K Cars (Dodge Aries / Plymouth Reliant)
1980 Chevrolet Citation
1979 Buick Rivera S
1978 Dodge Omni / Plymouth Horizon
1977 Chevrolet Caprice
1976 Dodge Aspen / Plymouth Volaré
1975 Chevrolet Monza 2+2
1974 Ford Mustang
1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
1972 Citroën SM (imported vehicle, selected "Overall Car of the Year")
1971 Chevrolet Vega
1970 Ford Torino
1969 Plymouth Road Runner
1968 Pontiac GTO
1967 Mercury Cougar
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado
1965 Pontiac Motor Division
1964 Ford Motor Company
1963 American Motors (AMC) Rambler (all models; American, Classic, Ambassador)
1962 Buick Special
1961 Pontiac Tempest
1960 Chevrolet Corvair
1959 Pontiac Motor Division
1958 Ford Thunderbird
1957 Chrysler Corporation (Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Imperial)
1956 Ford Motor Company
1955 Chevrolet Motor Division
1954 No Award
1953 No Award
1952 Cadillac Motor Division
1951 Chrysler Corporation
1950 No Award
1949 Cadillac Motor Division

Import Car of the Year Winners

Introduced in 1970 for one year and then brought back in 1976 due to differences between imports and American cars. The award was discontinued after the 1999 model year when the difference between what was a domestic and an import had started to become problematic.

Year Winner
1999 Volkswagen New Beetle
1998 Lexus GS
1997 BMW 5-Series
1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
1995 Nissan Maxima
1994 Honda Accord
1993 Mazda RX-7
1992 Lexus SC 400
1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
1990 Nissan 300ZX Turbo
1989 Mitsubishi Galant GS
1988 Honda CR-X Si
1987 Acura Legend Coupe
1986 Mazda RX-7
1985 Toyota MR2
1984 Honda Civic CR-X
1983 Mazda 626
1982 Toyota Celica Supra
1981 Mercedes-Benz 300SD Turbodiesel
1980 Honda Civic
1979 Datsun 280ZX
1978 Toyota Celica
1977 Mercedes-Benz 280E
1976 Toyota Celica Liftback
1975 No Award
1974 No Award
1973 No Award
1972 No Award
1971 No Award
1970 Porsche 914

Truck of the Year Winners

Year Winner
2024 Chevrolet Colorado
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning
2022 Rivian R1T[14]
2021 Ram 1500 TRX
2020 Ram Heavy Duty
2019 Ram 1500
2018 Ford F-150 / F-150 Raptor
2017 Ford Super Duty
2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel
2015 Chevrolet Colorado
2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
2013 Ram 1500
2012 Ford F-150
2011 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty
2010 Ram Heavy Duty
2009 Ford F-150
2008 Toyota Tundra
2007 Chevrolet Silverado
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2005 Toyota Tacoma
2004 Ford F-150
2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
2002 Chevrolet Avalanche
2001 Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty
2000 Toyota Tundra
1999 Chevrolet Silverado
1998 Mercedes-Benz ML320
1997 Ford F-150
1996 Chevrolet Tahoe
1995 Chevrolet Blazer
1994 Dodge Ram[15]
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee[16]
1992 Ford Econoline / Club Wagon
1991 Mazda Navajo
1990 Ford Aerostar 4WD
1989 Toyota Pickup XtraCab SR5 V6
1988 No Award
1987 No Award
1986 No Award
1985 No Award
1984 No Award
1983 No Award
1982 No Award
1981 No Award
1980 Volkswagen Vanagon
1979 Chevrolet LUV
1978 Ford Econoline

SUV of the Year Winners

"SUV of the Year" was split from "Truck of the Year" in 1999.

Year Winner
2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV[17]
2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5[18]
2022 Genesis GV70
2021 Land Rover Defender 110
2020 Kia Telluride
2019 Jeep Wrangler / Wrangler Unlimited
2018 Honda CR-V
2017 Mercedes Benz GLC-Class
2016 Volvo XC90
2015 Honda CR-V
2014 Subaru Forester
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
2011 Porsche Cayenne
2010 Subaru Outback
2009 Subaru Forester
2008 Mazda CX-9
2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
2006 Nissan Xterra
2005 Land Rover LR3
2004 Volkswagen Touareg
2003 Volvo XC90
2002 GMC Envoy
2001 Acura MDX
2000 Nissan Xterra
1999 Lexus RX 300

Car of the Year (China)

Motor Trend magazine's China-market cousin, Auto Club-Motor Trend, also issues a "Car of the Year" award for that market.

Car of the Year

2011: BMW Brilliance 5 Series (long wheelbase)
2010: Shanghai-GM Buick Regal
2009: GAC-Honda Accord
2008: FAW-Volkswagen Magotan(Passat B6)
2007: GAC-Toyota Camry
2006: FAW-Toyota Crown
2005: Changan-Ford Mondeo
2004: FAW-Mazda 6
2003: Shanghai Volkswagen Polo

SUV of the Year Winners

2011: FAW-Volkswagen Audi Q5
2010: GAC Toyota Highlander
2009: Dongfeng Nissan X-Trail
2008: Guangqi Honda CRV
2007: Countermanded
2006: Shanghai GM SRX
2005: Guangqi Honda CRV
2004: Changfeng Automobile Liebao Feiteng

See also


  1. ^ Lieberman, Jonny (January 2014). "Motor Trend Car of the Year 2014: The Strong Thrive: The 65th Anniversary of our Signature Award Finds the Automotive Industry Stronger Than Ever". Motor Trend. 66 (1): 42–45. ISSN 0027-2094. OCLC 423854316. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2015-05-18. Our mission was to determine exactly which of this year's 22 new or significantly refreshed contenders is in fact the best.
  2. ^ Mueller, Mike (2006). American Horsepower: 100 Years of Great Car Engines. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7603-2327-4. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  3. ^ Gunnell, John (2003). Standard Catalog of Thunderbird, 1955-2004. Krause Publications. p. 7. ISBN 9780873497565. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  4. ^ "The Way We Were: 1970 Motor Trend Import Car of the Year". Motor Trend. May 2006. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  5. ^ "Tow Car Awards". Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  6. ^ "Fleet Car of the Year". Automotive Fleet. Retrieved 2015-05-19.
  7. ^ Fifty Years of Motor Trend. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. 1999. ISBN 978-0-7603-0781-6.
  8. ^ Fombrun, Charles J. (1996). Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Harvard Business Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-87584-633-0. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  9. ^ "Rambler Wins 1963 Motor Trend "Car of the Year" Award". Life. Vol. 54, no. 10. 1963-03-08. p. 105. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  10. ^ Dudley, Kathryn Marie (1997). The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America. University of Chicago Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-226-16910-1. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  11. ^ Hyde, Charles K. (2003). Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation. Wayne State University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-8143-3091-3. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
  12. ^ "Cadillac CTS Scores Second Motor Trend Car of the Year Award" (Press release). Cadillac Pressroom. 2013-11-07. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  13. ^ Michael, Floyd (2008-09-25). "2009 Motor Trend Car of the Year: The Contenders Are Revealed, What's Your Pick?". Motor Trend. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  14. ^ Evans, Scott (December 13, 2021). "The Rivian R1T Is the 2022 MotorTrend Truck of the Year". Motor Trend. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  15. ^ Killeen, Scott (February 1, 1996). "1994 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie SLT - Long-Term Wrap-Up". Motor Trend. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  16. ^ "Jeep Grand Cherokee: Motor Trend's 1993 Truck Of The Year". Motor Trend. December 1993. Retrieved 2015-05-18.
  17. ^ "The Chevrolet Blazer EV Is the 2024 MotorTrend SUV of the Year". 25 October 2023.
  18. ^ "MotorTrend's 2023 SUV of the Year is Here: The Criteria". 20 October 2022.