The Chevrolet Volt and its kissing cousin, the Opel Ampera, are Europe’s “Car of the Year,” beating compacts from Volkswagen and Ford to add another award to the car’s trophy shelf.
The award, announced today ahead of the Geneva auto show, came two days after General Motors said it will suspend production of the plug-in hybrid for five weeks because of slow sales.
Still, the fact that the car is selling slower than expected didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the 59 judges, from 23 European nations, who gave the Volt and Ampera top honors. The car is, frankly, an engineering marvel and a true technological step forward, points the judges made.
The judges called the Chevrolet Volt and Opel Ampera “a mature product” that is “better suited to consumers’ needs than the conventional electric car.” They predicted we’ll see more plug-in hybrids as “others will come along this path.”
General Motors and its European subsidiary, Opel, bested seven finalists, including the second-place Volkswagen Up and Ford Focus, selected from among 35 vehicles.
“This encourages us further to continue our leadership role in the area of e-mobility,” said Karl-Friedrich Stracke, CEO of Opel/Vauxhall.
The Volt is a fine car, one that neatly and impressively bridges internal combustion and electric mobility. If the car has a drawback, it is price — the model we tested cost $44,680 before the $7,500 federal tax credit.
That, of course, makes it a favorite target of critics who like to attack General Motors and the Volt as failed experiment subsidized by federal tax dollars. Such was the case Friday, when GM announced it will suspend Volt production at its factory in Hamtramck, Michigan for five weeks effective March 16. The closure is prompted by slow sales; GM dealers have some 3,600 Volts in inventory.
“Sales for the Volt in February were significantly better than January, and we anticipate that to continue,” said GM spokesman Chris Lee. “We see good things in the future, but right now we had to make this adjustment.”
GM sold 1,063 Volts last month, up from 603 in January, making it unlikely the company will meet its goal of selling 45,000 Volts in 2012.
This is the third time production has been stopped for a month or more since the Volt went on sale in December, 2010. The move will put 1,600 people out of work for the duration of the shutdown.
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/