December 28, 1994 – Nissan Maxima named Motor Trend Import Car of the Year

On this day in 1994, Motor Trend announced its annual Imported Car of the Year winner for the 1995 model year, the Nissan Maxima. First introduced in 1980 as the Datsun 810 Maxima, the four-door sedan underwent significant rebuilding between ’94 and ’95. This of course being a qualifier for Motor Trend’s awards, as competing vehicles must be “all new” or “significantly upgraded.” The contest is not a straight comparison test either, but one that evaluates how well a vehicle does what it is supposed to do by design. Motor Trend currently uses six criteria when judging vehicles:

Design Advancementwell-executed exterior and interior styling; innovative vehicle packaging; selection of materials
Engineering Excellencevehicle concept and execution; clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; cost-effective technology that benefits the consumer
Efficiencylow fuel consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle’s competitive set
Safetyactive: help the driver avoid a crash; secondary: protect occupants from harm during a crash
Valuecompetitive price and equipment levels, measured against vehicles in the same market segment
Performance of Intended Functionhow well the vehicle does the job its planners, designers, and engineers intended

1995 Import Car of the Year

In 1995, the Nissan Maxima hosted a number of new features, including an all new VQ V6 engine and a multi-link beam suspension. It’s noted the car saw improved handling, safety and fuel efficiency year of year. By the time the award was announced, more than 60,000 Maxima’s had already been sold. This feat tilted the award in favor of the Nissan, given its significant market presence. Nissan/Datsun had previously won the award two times prior, once for the Datsun 280ZX in 1979 and again for the 300ZX Turbo in 1990.

The History of the Import Car of the Year Award by Motor Trend

The first Car of the Year Award was given out by Motor Trend in 1949 to Cadillac, when the award recognized automakers, rather than specific models. The first Import Car of the Year Award came in 1970, with the Porsche 914 taking the prize. Following a five year hiatus, the 1976 Toyota Celica Liftback took home the trophy. The award continued to be handed out every year until 1999, at which point imports and domestics merged into the singular Car of the Year Award. The last Import Car of the Year Award winner was the 1999 VW Beetle.

Motor Trend also gives out the Truck of the Year Award and the SUV of the Year Award. For 2024, the winners of each category are:

  • 2024 Car of the Year Award: Toyota Prius
  • 2024 Truck of the Year Award: Chevrolet Colorado
  • 2024 SUV of the Year Award: Chevrolet Blazer EV

2024 Chevrolet Colorado, the 2024 Truck of the Year by Motor Trend (Chevrolet).

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