Chevy Volt Wins Top Car Honor At Detroit Auto Show

By Daniel P. Tucker
|  Monday, Jan 10, 2011  |  Updated 2:00 PM PDT
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The Chevy Volt was named North American Car of the Year.

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The Chevy Volt—a plug-in hybrid vehicle that can go up to 375 miles without recharging its battery—was named the top North American car of the year at the Detroit Auto Show Monday.

Chevrolet calls the plug-in Volt “a full-performance electric vehicle.” Unlike hybrids like the Toyota Prius, the Volt is designed to travel long distances on electric power alone, and can even travel 35 miles without tapping its gas reserves.

The Hyundai Sonata sedan and the all-electric Nissan Leaf finished behind the Volt when judged by 49 automotive journalists from Canada and the United States. The judges considered factors like handling, driver satisfaction, and innovation when making their picks, according to the New York Times.

Detroit was the latest honor for the eco-friendly vehicle, which gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway when running on fuel. It was already named the 2011 Green Car of the Year and Motor Trend Magazine’s 2011 Car of the Year.

The all-new energy-efficient Ford Explorer won the North American truck of the year award. So far, neither the Volt nor the Explorer have the sales numbers to match their accolades, but that didn’t dissuade the judges from casting their votes.

“Even though the sales aren’t there yet, it’s sort of a chicken-and-egg thing,” judge Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com, told Bloomberg’s Craig Trudell. “We have to go there, but the sales aren’t there yet.”

Driving emissions-free for most commutes means a little pain upfront. The Volt will set you back $41,000. Even with a $7,500 federal tax credit for plug-in hybrids factored in, the Volt is more expensive than most of its competitors.

Innovation, not price, was the major concern for General Motors in designing and marketing the car.

“Since development began, we believed the Volt had the potential to transform the automotive industry,” GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement.

The Volt continues to rack up the trophies. Earlier this year, Ward’s AutoWorld named its drivetrain one of the 10 best of the year, and Car & Driver named the Volt one of the best 10 cars of the year.

Aside from its “top car” honors, the plug-in hybrid was given a “breakthrough technology” award by Popular Mechanics.

The Volt is currently available only in California, the New York metropolitan area, Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas. It will be on sale nationwide in the next 12 to 18 months.

Selected Reading: Bloomberg, New York TimesCrain's Detroit Business
 

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