The naming of the Chevrolet Volt as the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show last week is sparking some controversy. At the awards ceremony on Jan. 10, only GM delighted in the win, while other auto companies and journalists from outside the U.S. were silent.
The main reason for the skepticism is that the Volt has sold only some 300 units since its launch a month ago. It is the first time that a car with such limited sales has won the award.
The Volt is about the same size as a Hyundai Avante compact, but it costs US$41,000 in the U.S. And while it's advertised as an electric vehicle, it can travel only 50 km on electric power before switching over to gasoline. After that it manages only 15 km per liter of gasoline, which is less than gasoline-only vehicles such as the Avante or Toyota Corolla.
A GM source at the motor show admitted that the Volt's sales were refigured at the last minute for the award, and that Chevrolet does not intend to sell the car in massive numbers. Hyundai's new Sonata, one of the finalists for this year's award, has sold some 202,000 cars in the U.S. and Canada.
The North American Car of the Year award recently has been disproportionately won by U.S. vehicles, which have swept four categories including sedans and SUVs in the past two years. Some critics have suggested sarcastically that the award should be renamed the U.S. Car of the Year.