By Marc Lachapelle
The Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan made history on February 11 by becoming the first Korean car to win the Automotive Journalists Associations of Canada’s (AJAC) overall Car of the Year title in the 24th annual edition of these awards. The V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Genesis 4.6 won by the narrowest possible margin over the fully-redesigned Mazda6 mid-size sedan, 803 points to 802.
The Hyundai and Mazda had previously won in their respective categories (Luxury Car under $50,000 and Family Cars from $22,000 to $30,000) and were competing for the top award with nine other class winners and contenders. All had been announced last October 24, at the conclusion of a week of comparative testing by 79 journalists in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
After accepting the trophy from Car of the Year Group chair Richard Russell, an elated Stephen Kelleher, president and CEO of Hyundai Canada declared: “This is a very special award for Hyundai, it’s the first time that a Korean automaker has won this award, so it’s a landmark. It’s also a testament to the ability of our factories and R&D centres to produce top-notch quality and design vehicles, and not just in the subcompact or lower segments of the market, but with our new Genesis luxury car. For me, it really does validate the fact that Hyundai has arrived in Canada as a top-tier manufacturer.”
The Utility of the Year trophy went to the Oakville, Ontario-built Ford Flex crossover/wagon. The square-bodied Flex took the prize with a more comfortable lead over its closest rivals, showing a final tally of 776.4 points. The Subaru Forester and diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz ML 320 Bluetec’s respective final scores were almost identical at 760.6 and 760.1 points, respectively.
Receiving the award from AJAC president Clare Dear, Ford Canada president and CEO David Mondragon said: “The Flex is a great example of Ford daring to be different. It’s also built by Canadians for Canadians.” Mondragon later added: “This is a great alternative to the traditional minivan. Who wants to buy a minivan today? It’s the same old box that it was ten years ago. In this you can carry seven people, with great driving dynamics and great technology.”
A month earlier, to the day, the Hyundai Genesis had also won the North American Car of the Year award and Ford had won the Truck of the Year award, this time with its redesigned F-150 full-size pickup. In these awards, the Flex had been grouped with the cars, showing how blurred the lines now are between the various traditional categories.