You can expect Ford Mustang ads to trumpet the car's recent winning of Motor Trend's 1994 Car of the Year award. But how great an honor is it? A glance at past winners shows that they have included both peaches and lemons. Sure, the well-regarded Mustang joins such automotive standouts as the '92 Cadillac Seville STS, the '86 Ford Taurus LX, and the '84 Chevrolet Corvette. And while the '81 Chrysler K-cars were not exactly styling trendsetters, their engineering and marketing significance make them worthy winners.
But the '91 Chevrolet Caprice Classic LTZ? While the award-winning police-car version sold respectably, the civilian model, whose styling was often compared to an upside-down bathtub on wheels, bombed in the marketplace. Other honorees that were sales or styling duds--or both: the '76 Plymouth Volare, Chevy's '71 Vega and '80 Citation, and the '83 American Motors Renault Alliance.
This year, Motor Trend revamped its award criteria to deemphasize the extra points that special revved-up versions of cars, such as the police-special Caprice LTZ, could score in the magazine's performance tests. But the mag's national editor, Daniel Ross, admits:
"It's impossible to rate success in the sales derby in advance."