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MotorTrend is an American automobile magazine. It first appeared in September 1949, issued by Petersen Publishing Company in Los Angeles, and bearing the tagline “The Magazine for a Motoring World”. Petersen Publishing was sold to British publisher EMAP in 1998, who sold the former Petersen magazines to Primedia in 2001. As of 2007, it is published by MotorTrend Group (formerly Source Interlink Media). It has a monthly circulation of over one million readers.
MotorTrend magazine provides its readers with written “road tests” of vehicles. These road tests are published monthly, and are meant to give readers information about the featured vehicle, certain aspects of the vehicle, and what the readers can expect if the featured vehicle is purchased. For example, if MotorTrend road-tested the Cadillac Escalade, the road test article would provide its readers with information about the Cadillac Escalade, and what they could expect if they bought one for themselves.
There are two main types of MotorTrend vehicle comparisons. Regular comparisons usually compare two to three vehicles, and what each is like to own, drive, etc. “Big Test” comparisons typically feature anywhere from five to seven vehicles, all being compared against each other. In a way, a vehicle comparison is like a large road test featuring many vehicles, rather than just one.
One of the earliest and most enduring of the magazine’s creations was its Car of the Year award, given almost continuously since its inception, although the phrase itself would not become entrenched until well into the 1950s. It predates the European Car of the Year award begun in 1964.
The first winner was the 1949 Cadillac, which featured an innovative overhead valve V8 engine; while the company initially turned down the award from the brand new magazine, it now proudly references it’s COTY wins in publicity materials. The award has gone through several splits and permutations over the years, being called the Golden Wheels Award for a while in the 1970s and having given rise to Truck of the Year and Import Car of the Year as well as SUV of the Year. Nevertheless, it is still coveted by manufacturers and is usually covered by the mainstream press as the most important distinction awarded in the American auto industry.
Some recent COTY award winners include the Chevrolet Volt (2011), Volkswagen Passat (2012), Tesla Model S (2013), and Cadillac CTS (2014).