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Associated Press
Cadillac Chief Engineer David Leone kneels in front of the Cadillac ATS which was named North American Car of the Year.

Chrysler, GM nab top awards at Detroit show

– The two American automakers that emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009 have earned bragging rights for a pair of new vehicles.

General Motors’ Cadillac ATS and Chrysler’s Ram 1500 pickup on Monday won the 2013 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year. The winners were unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“We worked tirelessly with blood, sweat and tears to come through the hell we’ve been through,” Fred Diaz, president and chief executive of the Ram brand, said after the award was announced. “What a difference three years makes.”

Other truck and utility finalists were the Ford C-Max and Mazda CX-5. The other car finalists were the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord.

This is the 20th year of the awards, voted on by 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada. A vehicle must be all new or substantially changed to be eligible.

The word utility was added to the name this year because of the rising number of crossover vehicles.

The choices represent an aim to recognize the vehicles’ overall quality: The judges evaluate finalists on value, innovation, handling, performance, safety, and driver satisfaction.

Organizers accept no advertising, though carmakers try to capitalize on the marketing value of the honors.

The bragging rights don’t necessarily translate into a sales boost. Some winners in the past have experienced higher sales in the year after the award, but others have seen no significant bump and or watched sales drop.

Still, the awards provide some vindication for GM and Chrysler, which went through bankruptcy protection after the industry collapsed in 2008.

GM has an Allen County truck assembly plant.

David Leone, GM’s executive chief engineer for performance luxury vehicles, said the company worked tirelessly for five years to bring the Cadillac ATS to market. That included months where no product was in the pipeline – and even the survival of the company was uncertain.

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