2012 North American Car of the Year (© Rick Dole)Click to enlarge picture

2012 Hyundai Elantra named 2012 North American Car of the Year.

Maybe miracles do happen. First, the comeback kid Tim Tebow and the misfit Denver Broncos take down Big Ben Roethlisberger and the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers in an overtime thriller last night that has many football experts scratching their heads this morning. Then today, the Hyundai Elantra beats the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Passat to become the 2012 North American Car of the Year, leaving many auto experts here in Detroit stunned.

"So, um, wow — we are very surprised and humbled. It's an amazing honor," said a visibly surprised John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, who accepted the award at the kick-off ceremony for the press preview days of the North American International Auto Show.

Video: North American Car and Truck of the Year

Krafcik was stunned not because the Elantra isn't a worthy machine, but because it faced such stiff competition. "The Focus is an amazing car, and the Passat is incredible," he said. "We're just surprised and humbled to have the respect of the 50 automotive journalists," speaking of the independent panel that gives the awards each year.

More coverage from the Detroit Auto Show

North American Truck of the Year honors went to the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Andy Goss, president of Jaguar/Land Rover, was equally elated to accept the honors: "Thanks very much, and I can tell you that we're going to market the hell out of this."

Goss called the Evoque a "transformational vehicle" for Land Rover, pointing out its 4-cylinder engine that gets 28 mpg. The diminutive crossover utility vehicle is a stark contrast to the burly V8-powered SUVs that Land Rover typically makes.

None of the vehicles that made the final three to be considered for truck of the year is a truck in the conventional sense. They're all crossovers, which share more in common with cars than trucks.

This is the 19th year for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. The panel selects winners based on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

Vehicles considered for car of the year include:
Audi A6
Audi A7
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Sonic
Chrysler 300/SRT-8
Fiat 500
Ford Focus
Hyundai Accent
Hyundai Elantra
Hyundai Veloster
Kia Rio/ Kia Rio5
Scion iQ
Subaru Impreza
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius V
VW Beetle
VW Passat

Vehicles considered for truck of the year include:
Honda CR-V
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Mercedes-Benz M-Class
MINI Countryman
Nissan Quest
Saab 9-4X

Matthew de Paula wanted to be an automotive journalist ever since reading his first car magazine in grade school. After a brief stint writing about finance, he helped launch ForbesAutos.com and became the site's editor in 2006. Matthew now freelances for various outlets.