Since 2005, the Green Car Journal has been using the occasion of the Los Angeles Auto Show to award a prize for the most environmentally friendly car of the year. The victor may not get its name in stars on Hollywood Boulevard, but it does get to call itself 'Green Car of the Year'.
There were five vehicles on parade in the finals: the Ford Fusion and Saturn Vue 2 Mode hybrids, the Smart fortwo low-consumption mini, the sporty BMW 335d diesel limousine and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.
And walking away with the title was... the VW Jetta TDI, the first time any diesel has taken the honours. The nine-person jury was made up of experts from the environmental lobby and the automotive industry, with four of the panel being chosen from staff at the Green Car Journal who sponsored the award. Also on the panel were two iconic figures: talk show host and motor freak Jay Leno plus the legendary Carroll Shelby.
The VW Jetta TDI boasts a two-litre turbocharged engine and ultramodern diesel direct injection. This is what enables it to fulfil the draconian exhaust regulations that apply in all 50 federal states. The jury were particularly impressed by the fuel efficiency of the Jetta TDI, which compares favourably with that of petrol-electric hybrid models. The fact that the Volkswagen could be even more fuel-efficient than a hybrid was a further decisive factor in its selection as 'Green Car of the Year 2009'.