Vauxhall / Opel Ampera and Chevy Volt voted Car of the Year 2012

Second electric car in a row to win European award

By Gavin Conway on March 5, 2012 3:08 PM

The 2012 Vauxhall / Opel Ampera has been awarded the European Car of the Year title, along with its sibling 2012 Chevrolet Volt. There were 35 contenders in the running, voted on by 59 motoring journalists from 23 countries.

The results were announced live today from the Geneva Motor Show floor. 

Second place went to the Volkswagen Up!, which many observers took to be the favourite to win. Third place went to the Ford Focus.

The Ampera/Volt duo faced some very stiff competition, but were well placed when it came to the criteria used by the judges. Those included design, economy, functionality, performance, environmental credentials and technical innovation.

The Ampera extended range EV is the second electric vehicle to win the Car of the Year title – last year the 2011 Nissan LEAF was named, which was the first time in the organisation’s 48-year history that an electric vehicle earned the award. 

Ironically, the only pure-electric car before the LEAF that would have stood a chance of winning such an award was another EV from GM, the 1996 EV1 that was subsequently canned. The LEAF also garnered the 2011 World Car of the Year award.

Chevy Volt production suspended 

The COTY win will be hugely welcome news for GM, as the Volt in particular has had a miserable start to the year. First there was the controversy over the fears, unfounded in the end, of post-crash battery fires after American tests. This only served to heighten the often uninformed criticism of the Volt, mainly in right-wing news outlets such as Fox News.

And now we learn from The Detroit Free Press that 1,300 employees at the Detroit Hamtramck factory where the Volt/Ampera is built will be laid off for five weeks as production is stopped between 19th March and 23rd April. In spite of a very good February sales performance, the Volt hasn’t been hitting sales targets in the U.S., and GM wants to reduce the size of its current inventory of cars to bring it more in line with demand.

GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011, which was short of its initial target of 10,000.