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 |  Dec 15 2011, 5:45 PM

As the North American International Auto Show looms ever larger on the calendar, so does the annual North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, the winners of which will be announced on January 9th, before the show opens.

This year, finalists for the NACOTY award are the 2012 Ford Focus (shown), Hyundai Elantra and Volkswagen Passat, while finalists for the North American Truck of the Year award comprise the 2012 BMW X3, Honda CR-V and Range Rover Evoque.

The announcement of the finalists came following a December 15th meeting of the Automotive Press Association. The North American Car of the Year selection process is handled by a panel comprising 50 accredited automotive journalists from the US and Canada.

The 2011 car of the year winner was the Chevrolet Volt.

 |  May 26 2011, 7:07 AM

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Volkswagen has just released official pricing on its all new 2012 Passat mid-size sedan, undercutting last year’s model by roughly $7,000. The new sticker price comes in at a hair under the $20K mark ($19,995) although after destination it will be $20,765; helping VW compete in a market alongside models like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata.

The base Passat S gets the company’s 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 170-hp along with dual-zone climate control, the usual power group, Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

That base price does, however, come with just a 6-speed manual transmission and anyone who wants to upgrade to an automatic will have to spend an additional $2,700 – totaling $23,460 with destination. Numerous options can be added on to deliver a max price of $30,665.

Passat TDI models come equipped with the automaker’s 2.0-liter turbocharger diesel 4-cylinder making 140-hp and 236 lb-ft of torque and is priced from $26,765. Like with the rest of the VW lineup, the added cost of the diesel model is absorbed into a high-grade package with 17-inch wheels, a leather wrapped steering wheel and some upgraded trim with leatherette. Those wishing for a dual-clutch automatic will have to pony up to $28,665.

For $29,765 you can upgrade to the 3.6-liter V6 Passat with 280-hp, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, leatherette seating, a sunroof, upgraded audio and interior trim.

GALLERY: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

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 |  Feb 11 2011, 12:47 PM

It’s been widely criticized by stateside Volkswagen loyalists for abandoning the concept of a premium small sedan, but the current VW Jetta, despite being bigger, less unique and considerably cheaper than its predecessor, is actually proving to be the right vehicle for VW’s strategy, according to U.S. chief Jonathan Browning.

During a recent interview at the Chicago Auto Show, Browning said that “the entry-level has really done quite well in terms of bringing extra people in.” He was, of course, referring to customers that previously, drove competitors’ vehicles and before the 2011 model, wouldn’t have viewed the Jetta as an alternative. Browning also went on to say that some 60 percent of 2011 Jetta buyers are ‘conquests’ from other brands.

Through research, VW has concluded that the reason why previous Jetta models weren’t as popular was one; retail price and two, the perception of high maintenance costs. With the current car starting at $15,995 in the U.S. and VW throwing in three-year scheduled maintenance program, the company says it has uncovered a largely new customer base for its bread and butter offering.

But although the 2011 Jetta might be the most porridge-like ever, at least as far as VW enthusiasts and loyalists are concerned, there’s still a glimmer of hope. The 2012 Jetta GLI model with tauter suspension, turbocharged 2.0-liter four, higher level of feature content and an available Fender sound system, promises to provide at least some of the thrills, traditional sporty VWs are known for when it goes on sale here as a 2012 model.

And yet VW seems firmly entrenched on increasing volume in the U.S. market; targeting total sales of 1 million units annually (including Audi) by 2018. In order to get there it will likely have to rely on affordable, dull cars, like the base Jetta and the new $20,000 Passat; due out later this year.

Let’s just hope that alongside the porridge for breakfast, we can still get some chili for lunch – the GLI is certainly a nod in the right direction.

[Source: Automotive News]

Read AutoGuide’s 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Review Here