Key to the Highway

Observations about cars and the auto industry

2008 Green Car of the Year*

Green Car Journal, a magazine dedicated to covering vehicles friendly to the environment, will present its Green Car of the Year Award this morning at the L.A. Auto Show.

The nominees this year are the BMW 335d, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid, smart fortwo and Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

Volkswagen of America chief Stefan Jacoby speaks to the media after accepting the 2009 Green Car of the Year Award

Volkswagen of America chief Stefan Jacoby speaks to the media after accepting the 2009 Green Car of the Year Award

Reading the tea leaves on any award like this is tricky business. A large group of people is involved from various backgrounds. As is often the case, the Obvious Choice is often not the winner.

Case in point: Last year’s winner was the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. Not the greenest of the contenders, but the one the panel deemed to have the chance of making an important impact both environmentally and in the market.

So based on nothing other than a hunch, I’m going with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

First, clean diesel is just now emerging on the U.S. market. Second, the Jetta is affordable to many more buyers than the BMW. Third, the other three bring nothing new to the available choices; the smart has been on sale for more than a year and the hybrid systems in the Fusion and Vue don’t break any new ground.

I can’t wait for VW’s new ad slogan: Das GrĂ¼n Auto.

*To the surprise of nobody, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI won.

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