GM’s Volt Plug-in Hybrid Wins Car of the Year Award

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt was named North American Car of the Year as the largest U.S. auto show began in Detroit.

GM’s electric-gasoline Volt beat Nissan Motor Co.’s all- electric Leaf and Hyundai Motor Co.’s Sonata sedan, the Automotive Press Association announced today at the North American International Auto Show. Ford Motor Co.’s Explorer sport-utility vehicle was awarded truck of the year.

The wins by a plug-in car in GM’s Volt and an SUV touted for its efficiency in the Ford Explorer reflect the auto industry’s investment in the notion that fuel economy will increasingly affect consumers’ purchase decisions, Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said in an interview.

“Even though the sales aren’t there yet, it’s sort of a chicken-and-egg thing,” said Krebs, one of the 49 automotive journalists and analysts who voted to decide the winners. “We have to go there, but the sales aren’t there yet. Americans still love their SUVs.”

The awards kick off Detroit’s annual show. Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG are among automakers expected to unveil more than 30 new vehicles, according to show organizers.

Ford won both awards in 2010 with the Fusion hybrid sedan and Transit Connect commercial van. That was the third time in 17 years that one automaker had won both awards.

Battery Power

The Volt runs for about 40 miles (64 kilometers) on an electric charge before a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery and extends the range to more than 350 miles, according to Detroit-based GM.

The Volt began sales in December for $41,000. Buyers are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit for plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Ford began selling the Explorer late last year and will sell a version with a smaller, 4-cylinder engine. The standard Explorer with a V-6 engine gets 25 mpg on the highway, according to the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker.

The Volt was GM’s first finalist for the car award since 2008, when the Chevrolet Malibu won to beat out the Cadillac CTS and Honda Accord, according to the awards’ website.

GM fell 42 cents to $38.56 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Ford rose 4 cents to $18.31.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Detroit at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net.

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