“The Chrysler Group is honored and proud of this award,” said Eric Ridenour, Chrysler’s executive vice president of product development.
To determine the North American Car of the Year, the jurors vote on a secret ballot for cars that set new class standards for innovation, value, safety, ride and
handling. To be eligible, a vehicle must be “substantially new” with projected sales to exceed 5,000 a year. This year, 17 cars were eligible.
Each juror was given 25 points to divide among the eligible cars. No more than 10 points could be given to a single car. That means the most points a car could get for 2005 would be 480. The Chrysler 300 got 313 points. Runners up were the Ford Mustang with 256 points and the Chevrolet Corvette with 108. The journalists are instructed to compare the models they vote for against comparable models in the marketplace, so the Chrysler 300 isn’t measured against the Corvette, for example.
The award was given to the Chrysler 300 model line, which includes a 2.7-liter V6, a 3.5-liter V6 and the Hemi-powered 300C with a 5.7-liter V8. Unlike most American sedans of recent vintage, the Chrysler 300 features rear-wheel drive. “Chrysler’s 300C looks backward as much as it looks forward,” said Fortune Magazine’s Alex Taylor, with its “V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and retro styling.”
Jurors said they chose the Chrysler 300 models for redefining the full-size American sedan as well as for its general excellence. They praised its bold styling, strong performance, agile handling, European-style ride, and impeccable road manners, as well as the value it offers.
Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press called it “a seminal car,” meaning an original and influential car that should form a basis for later development.
“The big American sedan has just made its comeback,” wrote Howard Walker, St. Petersburg Times. “From that massive egg-crate chrome grille, to its pumped-bicep wheel arches and chiseled rear, the 300 screams ‘bold.’ Throw in Hemi power, fun-to-drive handling, and a bargain-basement sticker, and Chrysler has hit a major home run.”
New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie wrote, “The Chrysler 300 is the ideal car for people who have grown accustomed to the in-your-face styling of SUVs but want to return to the comfort and convenience of a sedan.”
The Chrysler 300’s aggressive styling can be polarizing, but even those who don’t like it at first learn to appreciate it. “I hated it the first time I saw it,” wrote Matt Nauman, San Jose Mercury News. “I loved it the first time I drove it with Hemi V8 power. And I’ve come around to appreciating its brash, bad-boy looks.”
“It looks like a 7/8ths-scale Bentley Arnage,” wrote Playboy’s Ken Gross.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough agreed. “It looks like a million bucks. People see it as an upscale vehicle and many buyers are trading out of expensive luxury cars because they like the bold looks. It may be the best execution of the big grille on the road.”
Jurors also noted the impact of the car to the market, to domestic auto makers, and to the Chrysler Group in particular.
“The Chrysler 300 is the best evidence around that Detroit can compete in the car business,” said Jayne O’Donnell, who writes for Woman’s Day and ClubMom.com.
“The 300C has revitalized an entire company whose continued health is vital to the North American auto industry,” wrote Fortune Magazine’s Alex Taylor.”
The Chrysler 300 has earned numerous awards since its spring 2004 introduction as a 2005 model. Among them: Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year, Car and Driver 10 Best Cars, AutoWeek Reader’s Choice Award, the Detroit Free Press Car of the Year and the Detroit News Car of the Year.
Each year since 1994 the jury of automotive journalists honors a new car and a new truck. Early in December the journalists voted on 17 new cars. The ballots were sent to the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche in Detroit.
The awards are funded by dues paid by jurors and are administered by a seven-person organizing committee. For 2005 the members of that committee are Tony Swan (Car and Driver); John McElroy (Autoline Detroit); John Davis (MotorWeek); Don Chaikin (Popular Mechanics); Alex Law (Freelance); Christopher Jensen (The Plain Dealer); and Mitch McCullough (New Car Test Drive).