Cadillac's Converj Concept stole the show in Detroit at the 2009 North American International Auto Show.

Cadillac’s idea for an expressive 2+2 luxury coupe that could use General Motors’ upcoming electric-car technology--the Converj--has been named “Most Significant Concept Vehicle of the Year.” The award was announced during the eighth annual North American Concept Vehicle of the Year program, held June 23 at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Converj was selected over three other vehicles that were category winners in the competition, which is conducted by the South East Automotive Media Organization (SEAMO), based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Other finalists for the award were the Volkswagen Concept BlueSport Roadster, Kia Soul’ster, and Fisker Karma Sunset Concept. According to a statement issued by SEAMO, the Converj “was the top-scoring vehicle with a huge lead.”

Dave Rand, GM’s executive director for global advanced design, who accepted the award, pointed out that the Converj’s exterior design began in the corporation’s studios in the United Kingdom before the project and much of the design team was brought to the U.S. to complete the concept. “Working on the Converj was a reminder to all of us why we got in this business in the first place,” Rand said. The Converj was first shown at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The award marked the fifth time that the Most Significant Concept trophy has gone to a General Motors vehicle. It was also the second consecutive top honor won by a Cadillac design, coming on the heels of the award given to the CTS Coupe Concept in 2008.

Lincoln C Concept
Click here for concept car photos from the 2009 auto show season.
The Converj qualified for the Most Significant Concept judging by first winning in the Specialty Concept category, which recognizes vehicles that showcase new technologies. Other finalists in the category were a pair of electric vehicles, the Chrysler 200C EV and the Dodge Circuit EV.

In the passenger-car-oriented Concept Car group, the VW BlueSport topped the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Lincoln C. The announcement of the award was accompanied by the news that Volkswagen has approved the diesel-engine roadster for production.

Like Volkswagen, Kia took home its first North American Concept award for the Soul’ster, which bested the Ford Transit Connect Family One and Nissan NV2500 in the Concept Truck category. Kia Motors America Senior Designer Tom Kearns noted that the open-top compact SUV came about after a change in direction from the concept vehicle the company originally planned for 2009. “My hat’s off to our young team of designers and sculptors back in Irvine, California,” he said.

The Fisker Karma Sunset Concept won the Production Preview category, which recognizes concept vehicles based on a model already announced or planned for production. The gas/electric hybrid convertible is expected to follow Fisker Automotive’s first car, a luxury sedan, into production. Company CEO Henrik Fisker said eco-friendly power isn’t incompatible with luxury and performance. “It doesn’t mean that we can’t create beautiful, powerful cars,” he said. The Karma Sunset won out over the Audi Sportback and Volvo S60 Concept.

A jury of more than two dozen North American automotive journalists whittled a field of 34 candidates down to the 12 finalists and four category winners, and then selected the Most Significant Concept honoree. (Consumer Guide Editor-at-Large Chris Poole is a member of the panel.) The award was open to concept and production-preview vehicles that made North American debuts at the late-2008 Los Angeles show or 2009 Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, or New York auto shows.