Volt Wins 2011 Car of the Year Award, Explorer Named 2011 Truck of the Year

General Motors Company’s Chevrolet Volt has added to its impressive list of awards by being named the 2011 North American Car of the Year.  The announcement was made on Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Ford Motor Company’s Explorer crossover was also named the 2011 North American Truck of the Year; continuing domestic automakers dominance of the award.

Finalists for the2011 Car of the Year award were announced in December and included the Volt, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Volt. Finalists for the Truck of the Year award included Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.

GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said, “GM’s vision is to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles and the Volt team has really delivered.” He sees the award as a milestone for the company as it works to remake its image in the wake of last year’s government-backed restructuring bankruptcy.

The selection of the Volt as the Car of the Year and selection of the Leaf and Sonata as finalists for the award is seen as strong indications of the auto industry’s support for electric vehicles.

Stephens said, “From my perspective the electrification of the automobile is not per se a fad. It is here to stay,” and added, “The Volt is not a science experiment. It’s meant to be a high volume vehicle and as the market demand grows we have to be flexible in new GM to satisfy that growth.”

The Volt is an extended-range plug-in hybrid vehicle that uses a smaller gas-powered engine to generate electricity once the battery becomes drained. Nissan’s Leaf is an all-electric vehicle that utilizes lithium-ion battery packs. The Hyundai Sonata also features a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

The all-new Chevy Volt and revamped Ford Explorer went on sale in the U.S. last month. GM reported sales of 326 Volts for the month.  Explorer sales for December reached 10,099, a 53 percent increase compared with the same month in 2009.

Ford has dominated the annual Truck of the Year award. Since the award’s inception 18 years ago, Ford has won seven. Last year Ford’s Transit Connect took home the Truck of the Year award.  In 2009, Ford swept the competition when the F-150 took home the Truck of the Year award and the Ford Focus was selected as the Car of the Year.

Ford president of the Americas Mark Shields said, “We’re really reinventing what the SUV means and giving what our customers want. It shows our plan is working, it shows that Ford can compete, not only here but around the world, and it shows we’re a country and a company that is falling in love again with bringing out fantastic cars and trucks.”

The Car and Truck of the Year awards are judged by 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. Vehicles are judged on their design, safety, handling, innovation and overall value.

Domestic truck makers have performed far better in the competition than their overseas competitors, winning 12 of the 18 awards given. European automakers have won the Truck of the Year title only twice while Japanese automakers have been selected four times.

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