Seventeen entered. Three remain.

Yes, it's that time of year again -- time to see who the final three contenders are for the North American Car of the Year award.

Out of 17 competitors, these three emerged from the votes of 50 automotive journalists: The Ford Focus, the Hyundai Elantra and the Volkswagen Passat.

The cars are voted on by journalists from the United States and Canada and from all media -- print, radio, television and the Internet.

Early in September, the jurors review a long list of candidates, according to the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards website. By early December, the jurors complete the second round of voting, and the finalists are revealed.

The winner will be announced next month in Detroit, at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.

Why these cars? How did they make the final three? Who do you think will take home the grand prize? analyst Ivan Drury breaks it down for us.