The 2011 Chevy Volt was named North American Car of the Year. It beat out the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Sonata.
DETROIT — The 2011 Chevrolet Volt got another marketing jolt on Monday when it received the North American Car of the Year award.
The car that runs on electricity for 40 miles before a backup gas engine kicks in beat out the Nissan Leaf, another electric, and Hyundai Sonata in the annual ceremony on the first day of media previews for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Ford Explorer won the truck of the year, the third year in a row the Michigan automaker nabbed the honor. Truck finalists were the Dodge Durango, the Explorer, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Forty-nine auto journalists from the United States and Canada made the picks. The vehicles are judged on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value.
It's the latest in a string of accolades for the Volt, which went on sale in limited markets in December and costs $40,280. It was named the Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November and Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine named the Volt the 2011 car of the year the same month.
The 2011 Ford Explorer took the honor of truck of the year. Other finalists were the Dodge Durango and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
General Motors Co. Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said the Volt "represents the soul" of the new GM, on the rebound after enduring a government-led bankruptcy in 2009. GM sold between 250 and 350 Chevy Volts in December and Nissan's sales totaled less than 10 Leaf sedans in the past two weeks. Production for both is slowly ramping up.
It will be well into 2012 before both the Volt and Leaf, which costs $32,780, are available nationwide. Early demand is strong: About 50,000 people already are on waiting lists.
The Volts are being assembled in Detroit. GM predicts it will sell 10,000 in 2011 and between 35,000 and 45,000 in 2012.
Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas, said the company reinvented the SUV with the Explorer, basing it on car underpinnings and improving its fuel economy over the old model. Customers, he said, wanted a rugged vehicle that can handle suburbia.
Last year's winners were both Ford vehicles: the Fusion Hybrid midsize sedan and Ford Transit Connect.