At the start of November, the 41 contenders for the 2011 European Car of the Year award were trimmed down to seven finalists. Today, for the first time ever, Europe's most coveted automotive award went to vehicle that that relies upon electrical juice flowing from its lithium-ion battery pack as its sole source of motivation. That battery-powered vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, marks the automaker's first win since the Micra took home the award way back in 1993. Head juror Hakan Matson proclaims that the Leaf is "a breakthrough for electric cars" and that it "is the first electric vehicle that can match conventional cars in many respects." Nissan chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn accepted the honor and responded with:
The Leaf faced strong competition from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Citroën C3/DS3, Dacia Duster, Ford C-Max, Opel/Vauxhall Meriva and Volvo S60/V60. Early predictions by some of the motoring press suggested that the pair of models from Citroën or perhaps even the lone Alfa Romeo vehicle would capture the award, but that's not how the jury of 57 automotive journalists ended up seeing it, and the electric Nissan Leaf grabbed the top spot. Last year, the Volkswagen Polo snatched the Car of the Year title away from second-place finisher, the Toyota iQ. In 2009, the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia just beat out the Ford Fiesta for the honor.This award recognises the pioneering zero-emission Nissan Leaf as competitive to conventional cars in terms of safety, performance, spaciousness and handling. It also reflects Nissan's standing as an innovative and exciting brand with a clear vision of the future of transportation, which we call sustainable mobility.
The Leaf also recently won the Green Car of the Year title from the UK's TheGreenCarWebsite and was named the 2011 "Best Car to Buy" by Green Car Reports. Hat tip to Matt!