By Jonathan Welsh

I’m not big on “car of the year” awards. Never have been. They are mostly useless unless you are a car-company marketer looking for a sound bite for a television ad. That’s where you hear that such-and-such vehicle was voted the world car, green car, family car or pet-friendly car of the year.

At least Motor Trend magazine, known as MT, can say it has been giving its Car of the Year award for more than 60 years, making the rest look like Johnny-come-lately. That’s not to say the glossy road-test book has a perfect record. I think two words, “Renault Alliance,” suggest how many grains of salt one should take with this award. That awful car won the award in 1983.

Other questionable winners include the 1971 Chevrolet Vega, 1976 Plymouth Volare, 1990 Lincoln Town Car and 1997 Chevy Malibu, (rental-car of the year, maybe).

But MT often gets it right, as with Ford’s first-generation Taurus and this year with the Tesla Model S.

The high-tech electric luxury sedan is the rare car that breaks new ground and cuts against the deep, knotted grain of the hidebound auto industry.

The Model S, which has an EPA-rated range of 265 miles, reached a fuel-economy equivalents as high as 118 mpg during testing and sprinted to 60 mph in four seconds “won the hearts and minds of even the most cynical judges on our panel,” the magazine said.

By Jonathan Welsh