Want proof that hybrids have hit the mainstream? Look no further than this week's Detroit auto show, where Ford won the 2010 North American Car of the Year award for its Fusion Hybrid. The sedan beat out two non-hybrid competitors--the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf GTI and TDI Diesel--to take this year's honors.
The annual award, which is given out by a panel of 49 auto journalists, rates cars based on value, innovation, design, safety, handling, and driver satisfaction. While we haven't tested the LaCrosse or VW Golf models, we can attest to the slick design, high fuel economy and comfort of the Fusion Hybrid. And we aren't the only ones who like the car--one juror called the Fusion the best hybrid ever built.
The Fusion isn't the first hybrid to win the Car of the Year award. That designation goes to the Toyota Prius, which was first nominated in 2001 but didn't win until 2004. Ford has also scored in the hybrid category before for the Escape Hybrid, which won the Truck of the Year award in 2005. The company also took this year's Truck of the Year award for the Transit Connect.
All of this will sound great in Ford car commercials, but will it help sales? We're guessing that the Prius will remain the best-selling hybrid because of the name recognition factor, but don't be surprised to see more new Ford vehicles on the road in the coming year. Last year, the company gained market share for the first time since 1995, and December 2009 saw a 33% increase in sales. That's not bad for one of the ailing Big Three.