Apparently it's a good year to be an American automaker. Early last December a jury of 49 automotive journalists from the US and Canada chose from 11 cars and 10 trucks and SUVs to settle on three finalists in each category, and now that herd has been culled to two victors.

Cutting out both the Ford C-MAX and the Mazda CX-5, the Ram 1500 won North American Truck of the Year 2013. The brand's Fred Diaz was on hand for an emotional acceptance of the honor, citing Ram's emergence from an economic downturn three years ago.

"What a difference three years makes," he said. He's right: Ram threw everything it could at the truck and it has paid off. The Ram 1500 is the first full-size pickup to feature an 8-speed transmission, which helps both fuel economy and driving comfort, as does its Pentastar V6 engine.

Watch Video:  North American Car and Truck of the Year

Defeating the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord, the Cadillac ATS took the North American Car of the Year prize this year, thanks to its modern styling and downsized engine offerings. The car can be had with a choice of three engines and, importantly for any automotive journalist, a 6-speed manual transmission.

This is the 20th year of the North American Car and Truck of the Year, and the resulting awards seem to be more and more coveted as the years pass. As opposed to an accolade from any individual media source, a NACTOY victory gives an automaker an across-the-board trophy that gives it additional credence.

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James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.