2012 Opel Ampera

The Chevrolet Volt may not be selling well, but it's one of the most lauded cars in history. Today the plug-in hybrid was named the 2012 European Car of the Year, an award it will share with its European fraternal twin, the Opel Ampera.

The Volt won North American Car of the Year in 2011, while also picking up car of the year accolades from Motor Trend, Automobile, and nabbing Green Car of the Year from Green Car Journal. Britain's What Car? awarded the Vauxhall Ampera – as the Opel model is called in the U.K. – its Green Car of the Year award, as well.

But the Volt has been at the center of one controversy after another, since even before it was launched. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into a battery fire showed the car was not defective, but it led to the Ampera being delayed. Recent negative publicity among right-leaning political pundits has contributed to making the Volt something of an enigma for General Motors, which just announced it was suspending production of the slow-selling car.

While Europe was never envisioned as the prime market for the Volt/Ampera, GM says it already has 7,000 orders for the Ampera and that the company expects to hit its target of 10,000 sales this year. Certainly, winning this award, presented at the Geneva Motor Show for the first time this year, should help.

The Volt/Ampera finished significantly ahead of the Volkswagen Up! and Ford Focus in the European Car of the Year voting, which included a field of 35 vehicles.

To read the full press release, click past the jump.
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Ampera and Volt voted "Car of the Year 2012"

Geneva. The Opel Ampera and the Chevrolet Volt have today won the "Car of the Year 2012" award. By handing victory to the revolutionary electric vehicles, the panel of judges, made up of 59 leading automotive journalists from 23 European nations, paid tribute to General Motor's innovative foresight. The Opel Ampera / Chevrolet Volt were the undisputed winners with 330 points against VW Up (281) and Ford Focus (256).

For the first time in the history of the prize, the final selection was made in the context of the Geneva international motor show. The Opel/Vauxhall CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, and Chevrolet's President and Managing Director for Europe, Susan Docherty, were both handed the "Car of the Year 2012" award by the President of the COTY judging panel, Hakan Matson.

The Ampera and the Volt emerged as the joint overall winner in a field of seven COTY finalists. Initially, 35 recently launched vehicles entered the contest. The selection criteria applied by the judges were based on attributes such as design, comfort, performance and especially innovative technologies as well as efficiency – areas where the Ampera and the Volt excel.
"It is a proud moment for us and an honor to receive this award from Europe's leading jury of automotive journalists," said Susan Docherty, President and Managing Director, Chevrolet Europe. "Our car demonstrates that electric driving can be fun and reliable without ever compromising the owners' lifestyle."

"We are extremely pleased that our revolutionary electric vehicle has emerged as the winner in such a tough field of competitors. And we are very proud of this accolade," says the Opel/Vauxhall CEO, Karl-Friedrich Stracke. "This encourages us further to continue our leadership role in the area of e-mobility."

The Volt and the Ampera have won many international awards including the "World Green Car of the Year 2011" and the "North American Car of the Year 2011" award. There have also been accolades for safety like the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP award.

The Ampera and the Volt are the first electric vehicles in the market that can go anywhere anytime. A 16 kWh lithium ion battery powers the 111kW/150 hp electric motor. Depending on the style of driving and road conditions, distance of between 40 and 80 kilometers can be covered in the purely battery-operated mode, completely free of emissions. The wheels of the car are always powered electrically. In extended-range mode, which activates whenever the battery has reached its minimum state of charge, the gasoline engine drives a generator that supplies the electric drive unit. The range extender enables an operating radius of 500 kilometers.