Chevy Volt dubbed Euro car of the year

Days after General Motors announced it was temporarily suspending production of the Chevy Volt, the electric car was named European Car of the Year.

The Geneva Auto Show announced Monday that the Volt, which is sold in Europe as the Opel Ampera, was named its 2012 Car of the Year ahead of its annual car show that opens this week. 

The auto show, in its review of the vehicle, called the Volt/Ampera a "mature product, after years of development and perfectioning by General Motors, and the first example of an electric vehicle with extended range."

The recognition follows General Motors's announcement last week that it was halting production of the Volt at its Hamtramck, Mich., plant for five weeks and temporarily laying off 1,300 employees.

GM officials attributed the decision to temporarily suspend production of the Volt to inventory concerns.

"We needed to maintain proper inventory and make sure that we continued to meet market demand," GM spokesman Chris Lee told The Hill last week.

The development of the Volt has emerged as a political issue as Republicans in Congress have targeted reports of its batteries catching on fire during testing. Meanwhile, President Obama and Democrats have cited the electric car as evidence of the turnaround in fortunes of the U.S. auto industry since the federal government gave bailouts to GM and Chrysler in 2008 and 2009.

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In a speech to the United Auto Workers union last week, Obama promised he would buy a Volt "five years from now, when I'm not president anymore."

Republicans have argued that the Volt was being pushed by the Obama administration for political reasons instead of consumer demand.

“Is the commitment to the American public or is the commitment to clean energy, that we are going to get there any way we can?” Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) asked in a hearing in the House in January about the Volt's reported battery fires. 

Chevy has decried the politicization of the Volt's development, with General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson testifying before Congress in the same January hearing that "we did not develop the Chevy Volt to be a political punching bag."

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