Just after GM announced a production shut down of the Chevy Volt due to poor sales, it received Motor Trend Magazine’s 2012 European Car of the Year honor. The Opel Ampera, the Chevy Volt’s European doppelganger is produced in the United States, but sold in Europe. The Volt and Ampera are mechanically identical, hence the joint award. In a competition involving 35 vehicles, the Volt/Amprea represents the second straight (partially) electric car to win Europe’s top prize. Last year the Nissan Leaf won the Motor Trend European Car of the Year (in addition to the Japanese and World titles).
Motor Trend’s designation of the Volt as the European Car of the Year represents a sweep of sorts for the car. In addition, it was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year last year. While sales lagged due to unflattering press coverage stemming from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation into post-crash fires, it remains to be seen if Motor Trend’s decision will provide a boost in sales. Earlier this year the NHTSA “closed its safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash. Opened on November 25, the agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.”
While it is highly unlikely that GM will reverse course on its shutdown, creating demand for the vehicles will be important if the car company hopes to even approach its original goal of selling 60,000 of the units. A USA Today story from last month suggested that the highest number of consumers (in the U.S.) could be paying $5 per gallon for gasoline at some point this year. If this doesn’t convince people to shift to alternatively powered vehicles, who knows what will.