SAMA names best vehicles at 2010 Miami auto show

By Lee Stephens….

Jeep’s Lower Forty named Best Concept Vehicle of the Show.

The Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan LEAF were named the top vehicles at the 40th annual South Florida International Auto Show (SFIAS) by the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA), while Jeep’s funky Lower Forty was tapped as the Best Concept Vehicle in the Show.

The nine-member SAMA judging panel awarded the Volt the fourth annual “Star of the Show” trophy after deciding that it was the single vehicle on display at the show that South Floridians most want to see.

At the same time, the judges picked the Nissan LEAF as the “Best Green Technology Vehicle” in the show because it is the first non-emissions, plug-in electric car to be mass-produced and marketed in the United States.

Jeep’s Lower Forty, a project of the company’s “Skunk Works” product development division, captured the “Best Concept Vehicle” trophy.

“We considered about 25 vehicles for the Star of the Show award,” said Ron Beasley, SAMA judging committee chair. “That list included the Audi A8 sedan, the Cadillac CTS V Coupe, the Hyundai Equus and the Lexus LFA. But, in the end, the judges felt that the Volt was just the most exciting vehicle on the floor and it’s the one car that people will come to the show to see.”

Beasley said that the judges considered 10 vehicles in the Green Technology category before deciding to award the trophy to the Nissan LEAF.

“We considered the Chevy Volt and the Honda CR-V, as well as the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Audi clean diesel technology,” Beasley said. “But, the Nissan LEAF plug-in electric vehicle with its lithium-ion battery is clearly at the forefront of this technology and we think it is the wave of the future.”

This is the fourth consecutive year that SAMA has given the awards at the SFIAS, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. A prestigious panel of nine SAMA members walked the floor of the show and reviewed the vehicles prior to the opening and determined which vehicles would receive the coveted SAMA awards.

The 2010 panel of judges included Beasley, SAMA founding president and automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers; former Automundo magazine publisher and SAMA founding member Jorge Koechlin; auto writer/photographer and SAMA founding member Pepe Forte; prominent international auto journalist Howard Walker; auto writer/photographer and SAMA founding member Angelica Willard; nationally known automotive radio personality Joe Castello; veteran automotive writer and track announcer Ric Green; bilingual automotive journalist Juan Robbin, and auto writer and sports car racer Dr. Ray Mummery.

The awards were announced and presented during the annual auto show luncheon hosted by SAMA for members of the auto industry on the opening day of the Miami auto show.

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