By Bill Griffith, NEMPA, Boston Globe
Photos by Steve Szydlowski, NEMPA, Providence Journal
The gala dinner that followed NEMPA’s Autonomous Vehicle roundtable at MIT on May 11 was an event many years in the making, as it marked not only the 15th year that the New England Motor Press Association has handed out awards, but also the 25th anniversary of the group’s founding.
Masters of ceremonies were former NEMPA president Craig Fitzgerald and Wayne Carini, host of Discovery Channel’s “Chasing Classic Cars.” (NEMPA afterward thanked Carini with a $500 donation to his favorite charity, Autism Speaks.)
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, picked up two awards during the ceremonies–the Yankee Technology Cup for his company’s direct-injection engine technology and, for himself, the Silver Anniversary Executive Award for his achievements in the automotive industry. Not only is he a native New Englander (from Southington, CT) and a graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he has also had successful careers at NUMMI, the GM/Toyota collaboration, and Ford before moving to Hyundai.
A panel from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Larz Anderson Auto Museum and NEMPA chose the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion to receive the Ritvo Award for Style & Elegance.
Martyn Schorr, head of Performance Media Public Relations, earned a lifetime achievement award for his service to the automotive industry and to NEMPA. Founder’s Award winner (and Automotion proprietor) John “Bugsy” Lawlor laid the credit (blame?) for NEMPA’s existence at Schorr’s doorstep with his story about how the group came to be. It turned out that Schorr also was the first to dub NEMPA the “New England mafia.”
The full list of award winners are available below. NEMPA thanks Steve Szydlowski for the photos and everyone who attended the dinner for helping to celebrate 25 years of coordinated automotive coverage in New England.
John Krafcik, President & CEO, Hyundai Motor America, accepts THE SILVER ANNIVERSARY EXECUTIVE AWARD from NEMPA President Keith Griffin. Krafcik was cited for “his strong ties to New England as a Connecticut native, MIT Sloan School graduate, and for his sterling success in the automotive industry.” Krafcik also accepted THE YANKEE CUP TECHNOLOGY AWARD for his company’s Hyundai Gasoline Direct Injection. Previously a premium/luxury feature, Hyundai took the bold step of bringing Gasoline Direct Injection technology to nearly its entire fleet, from the sub-compact Accent all the way to its flagship Equus. GDI allows Hyundai vehicles to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Selected in conjunction with faculty and staff at MIT, NEMPA’s Yankee Cup annually goes to an automotive feature or system that significantly enhances the motoring experience, whether by making driving safer, more cost- efficient or simply more enjoyable.
Gary Fong, Porsche Cars North America, accepts the award for BEST IN CLASS—HYBRID SPORT UTILITY VEHICLE for the Porsche Cayenne from NEMPA V-P John Paul. The Cayenne has proven itself as both a true Porsche and a sales success. This second-generation 2012 Cayenne is roomier than the original and more than 100 pounds lighter, and Porsche is defying convention again by offering one Cayenne model as its first production hybrid. The Cayenne S Hybrid uses a supercharged V-6 and two electric motors to provide propulsion and active all-wheel drive. It’s a way to get Porsche quality and luxury with plenty of space for occupants and cargo without sacrificing performance. The hybrid Cayenne sprints to 60 MPH in 6.1 seconds and can reach 150 MPH, yet it can travel 24 highway miles per gallon. That’s having your cake and eating it, too.
GM’s Laura Toole accepts the award for BEST IN CLASS—PREMIUM SPORT UTILITY VEHICLE/CROSSOVER on behalf of the Cadillac Escalade, judged one of the pinnacles of luxury full-size sport-utility vehicles. The Escalade has earned this recognition over 13 years of crashing the luxury SUV party with a unique look and a red-blooded American V8. Efficiency goes hand-in-hand with muscle, thanks to cylinder deactivation. A strong frame boosts towing capacity, while available all-wheel drive and Magnetic Ride Control give this big SUV athletic reflexes even in quickly changing conditions. A leather-lined interior filled with technology for both passengers and drivers clinched our Winter voting. The swashbuckling Cadillac Escalade has the right stuff for the New England buyer looking for a premium package of all-season capability, capacity and comfort.
Lindsay Burns, M-B USA, accepts the award for best LUXURY WINTER VEHICLE for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4MATIC from NEMPA’s John Paul. The S- Class is this storied automaker’s flagship sedan, with a reputation for quality, safety and leading-edge technology that has been forged over decades. All S- Class models feels girder-strong, and 4MATIC models drive all four wheels to further enhance that solidity with unflappable foul-weather capabilities. This formidable, luxurious, roomy sedan can be equipped with a wide range of powertrains, including a new S350 BlueTEC diesel and the S400 HYBRID, and every S-Class automobile offers leading-edge driver-aid and active and passive safety features. The S-Class 4MATIC is an ideal way to make progress regardless of what’s happening outside.
FAVORITE FUN ENTRY-LEVEL CONVERTIBLE – Mazda USA’s Tamara Mlynarczyk accepts the award for the MX-5 Miata. The MX-5 Mazda has become one of the most recognized and coveted of all cars, thanks to its light weight and response, and because it is so much fun to drive. It is also ultra-reliable, long-lasting and all-weather functional. All this, plus good looks and a price that virtually any enthusiast can afford, makes the 2012 Miata everyone’s favorite entry-level ragtop.
Nissan’s Steve Oldham accepts the award for BEST IN CLASS—PREMIUM SPORT UTILITY VEHICLE/CROSSOVER for the Infiniti QX56, judged one of the pinnacles of luxury full-size sport-utility vehicles. The QX56 grabs our attention with distinctive bodywork. This strikingly styled, full-size body-on-frame SUV carries Infiniti design themes proudly and exudes its premium status from every angle. A brawny 5.6-liter V-8 employs direct injection for both power and efficiency. Innovative Hydraulic Body Motion Control keeps the QX56 flat during cornering, reducing drama and delivering a surprisingly easy yet sporty driving experience. The cabin is finished to a stunning degree of luxury, and the QX56 offers some of Infiniti’s highest levels of driver information and passenger entertainment. The swashbuckling Infiniti QX56 has the right stuff for the New England buyer looking for a premium package of all-season capability, capacity and comfort.
WheelsTV principal Jim Barisano, right, presents his company’s POVOTY (Personally Owned Vehicle of the Year) Award to Pierre Kanter (far left) and Laura Toole, both representing General Motors, on behalf of the 2007-2010 Chevrolet Silverado. Keith Griffin, NEMPA President, blesses the event. The trophy is a wheel from a 1937 Chevy pickup
Honda’s Chris Naughton accepts the BEST IN CLASS—COMPACT SPORT UTILITY VEHICLE/CROSSOVER award for the Honda CR-V from John Paul. The CR-V helped launch the non-truck-based SUV segment that came to be known as crossovers back in the 1990s. Honda hasn’t been sitting on its laurels, however, and the CR-V was redesigned for 2012. Offering a newly refined and efficient engine, more space and excellent driving dynamics, the CR-V offers compact all-weather excellence at an affordable price. Many families have been lured to smaller SUV and crossover vehicles by exactly the sort of thoughtful interior design and functionality that Honda has included in the 2012 CR-V. There’s lots of storage and a low liftover height, and the sophisticated available hands-free navigation and connectivity system reads text messages aloud. The Honda CR-V parlays its successful redesign into a spot as a top 2012 Winter Vehicle.
Andrew Lipman of Audi accepts the award for BEST IN CLASS—PREMIUM ALL- WEATHER SEDAN/WAGON for the Audi A6, one of the two premium sedans judged most capable of shrugging off severe weather. The 2012 Audi A6 and completely revised 2013 Lexus GS350 share many of the same traits, which explains the close finish. Both are luxurious premium driver’s sedans, leather-lined and technology-filled, and both feature all-wheel drive to provide sure-footed traction. Audi’s MMI in-car system incorporates information from Google Earth via a paired cellular phone and sends this data to the automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control and active headlights. As a result, the A6 seems to have extra-sensory perception, which proactively helps the driver in potentially difficult situations.
NEMPA V-P John Paul, right, presents THE CAMEL’S BACK AWARD to Pierre Kanter, President of FMI. This award gets its name from NEMPA’s penchant for often untimely and burdensome requests that could be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”—but that Pierre Kanter has cheerfully fulfilled time and again in his automotive career. Pierre also accepted NEMPA’s FAVORITE CONVERTIBLE $35,000-$50,000 AWARD for the Chevrolet Camaro SS. Many NEMPA members regard this Camaro as a contemporary interpretation of a classic design—and it has one of the best exhaust notes on the road. With up to 426 horsepower on tap and excellent handling, comfortable seats and other amenities, the Camaro SS puts Chevrolet back in the pony-car game in a big way.
THE FOUNDER’S AWARD went to John “Bugsy” Lawlor, left, of Automotion, Inc. & “Car Talk,” for his 25 years of unequaled service to members of NEMPA and to the automotive industry at large. (Right: John Paul, NEMPA Vice-President)
NEMPA’s John Lawlor, left, presents THE CHARLES E. DOLE HIGH ROAD AWARD to Marty Schorr, President, PMPR, Inc. This special award goes to “an automotive professional who has emulated the enterprise, collegiality, helpfulness, integrity and good will that marked the career of Charlie Dole, for many years the automotive columnist for theChristian Science Monitor and dean of the New England automotive press corps.”
Toyota’s Wade Hoyt accepts the BEST IN CLASS—PREMIUM ALL-WEATHER SEDAN/ WAGON award for the Lexus GS 350, one of the two premium sedans judged most capable of shrugging off severe weather. The 2012 Audi A6 and completely revised 2013 Lexus GS350 share many of the same traits, which explains the close finish. Both are luxurious driver’s sedans, leather-lined and technology-filled, and both feature all-wheel drive to provide sure-footed traction. The GS350 pushes in-car electronics into the future with its enormous and intuitive LCD screen for the Remote Touch system, and its styling draws in elements of the ultra-exclusive LF-A. The driver benefits from a 306- horsepower V6 and a range of selectable drive modes that adjust throttle response, stability control and shift points for performance or economy.
Ford’s Bill Collins accepted the BEST IN CLASS—ALL-WEATHER PICKUP TRUCK award for the Ford F-150 EcoBoost. Defying conventional wisdom, Ford put a turbocharged V6 in its huge-selling F-150 pickup truck and reinvented that market. Ford has tested, tuned and tortured its EcoBoost drivetrain to make sure it can stand up to the pounding of a work vehicle. The boosted intake tract puts V-8 power underfoot, while the “Eco” part of the engine consumes fuel like the V-6 it is. Modest 3.5-liter displacement aside, there’s nothing small about the F- 150 EcoBoost’s 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Add 4×4 drive and a plow to this refined muscle and you’ll have a winter machine that can also go 750 miles on a single tank of gas. Ford has been loading up its vehicles with technology specifically for truck buyers. There’s a reason why the F-150 has been a sales leader for decades, and that reason is the right recipe. The F- 150 covers New England roads like new-fallen snow in January.
FAVORITE LUXURY CONVERTIBLE – BMW North America’s Dave Buchko accepts the award for the BMW 650i. This second-generation 650i is spot-on, a tour de force of technology, luxury and performance. You can flog it down a mountain road at eye-watering speeds or you can glide along Rodeo Drive in posh comfort. Even parking is a breeze, thanks to sensors and cameras that monitor all sides of the car from above, in full sun or at night. Our well-equipped 650i cost $103,525, and it might just be worth every penny.
THE GENE RITVO MEMORIAL DESIGN AND ELEGANCE AWARD – With input from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, NEMPA honored the 2013 Ford Fusion with its Gene Ritvo Award for Design & Elegance. “The Ritvo” honors the best in design in the automotive world and is named for the late Gene Ritvo, a NEMPA member and veteran Concours photographer who had an unusually keen eye for elegant design. Meghan Melvin, the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Curator of Design at MFA, and Sheldon Steele, Executive Director of LAAM, flank Chris Hamilton, chief designer of the 2013 Ford Fusion. “It is an honor to accept this award on behalf of the team behind the all-new Ford Fusion,” Hamilton said; “The 2013 Fusion has a revolutionary design that puts an accent on elegance: It has a sophisticated feel and a sleek profile setting it apart from traditional midsize sedans.”
NEMPA members Paul Parravano, left, Co-Director of MIT’s Office of Government and Community Relations, and Craig Fitzgerald, Editorial Director of IMN, Inc., flank John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Krafcik, an MIT alumnus, holds NEMPA’s Silver Anniversary Executive Award, presented to him for “his strong ties to New England as a Connecticut native, MIT Sloan School graduate, and for his sterling success in the automotive industry.” Krafcik also accepted The Yankee Cup Technology Award for his company’s Gasoline Direct Injection system.
NEMPA President Keith Griffin, left, and Vice-President John Paul present the 2012 WINTER VEHICLE OF NEW ENGLAND award to Jeep’s Eric Johnson for the Grand Cherokee. For the second year in a row, the big Jeep has taken the overall honors. The refined, comfortable Grand Cherokee has the capabilities to handle New England’s snow, ice and cold while pampering driver and passengers with excellent dynamics and plush comfort. Two class-leading engines, the Pentastar V6 and the robust Hemi, plus a choice of four 4WD systems provide power and efficiency. Sporting a luxurious, quiet interior and styling that says “premium” while the MSRP starts around $27,000, the Grand Cherokee appeals to our New England sensibilities in all the right ways, clinching its title again in an important market for the Jeep brand.
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