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chevy volt
Ford Explorer wins truck of year; awards revealed at Detroit auto show

DETROIT — The North American International Auto Show opened Monday with fresh signs the comeback by U.S. carmakers is gaining traction.

In the first big event of the show, the Chevy Volt, the centerpiece of General Motors' return from bankruptcy and already the winner of both Motor Trend Magazine's car of the year and Green Car of the Year awards, was named 2011 North American Car of the Year award, beating out rival vehicles from Japan's Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Korea's Hyundai Motor Co.

The latest version of Ford Motor Co's Explorer sport utility vehicle, meanwhile, was named 2011 North American Truck of the Year — the third year in a row that Ford has dominated the category.

The U.S. sweep of the awards, which are voted by a panel of 49 automotive journalists, provided an encouraging auto show kickoff for Detroit's Big 3 automakers. The show is the first in a string of trade events where automakers clamor to build buzz for vehicles months before they hit showrooms.

"The Volt, it really represents the soul or the essence of the new General Motors," Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman for global product operations, said as he accepted the award.

The award, Stephens said, was a recognition of the "the creativity, the perseverance and the dedication of thousands of employees" which continued "even during GM's darkest days."

The U.S. auto industry snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010, including three consecutive sales months above the 12 million unit annual rate to close the year. Most analysts expect double-digit growth in 2011 and further gains in 2012.

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