Further evidence that General Motors (GM) has made significant gains in rebuilding its business emerged Monday: Its long-anticipated Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric hybrid hatchback was named North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show.
The Volt was joined by Ford Motor's (F) Explorer midsize sports-utility vehicle, which took the North American Truck of the Year honor. After about a 20-year run largely unchanged, the Explorer was redesigned for the 2011 model year, making it more car-like and fuel-efficient. Both vehicles went on sale in December.
The Volt's selection for the Car of the Year award wasn't much of a surprise. Reviews by the automotive press have largely praised the vehicle's design, and the Volt has taken several other awards already, including Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year.
Unlike Toyota Motor's (TM) Prius gas-electric hybrid, the Volt can run up to about 40 miles on electricity alone, although Toyota plans to unveil a line of Prius models at the auto show that include a plug-in hybrid variant, similar to the Volt.
The Explorer's selection for Truck of the Year gives the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker its third consecutive win in the category. The Ford F-150 pickup truck took the award in 2009, and last year Ford's Transit Connect utility vehicle was named.
The new Explorer has been significantly revised for the 2011 year, dumping the previous model's body-on-frame construction for a more modern design that improves handling and fuel economy. Sales of the new model doubled in December compared to the previous model, Ford said earlier this month.
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