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 |  Mar 05 2012, 10:23 AM

Given that the Nissan Leaf was named European Car of the Year at the 81st annual Geneva Motor Show in 2011 and the buzz surrounding electric vehicles shows no signs of abating, it probably wasn’t surprising that in 2012, the Chevy Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera (it’s European market derivative), garnered the annual ECOTY award this time around..

The accolade comes as GM continues to aggressively push the Chevrolet nameplate into Europe, while Opel, the company’s established brand in the region, continues to struggle against volume competitors like Volkswagen and Ford, largely due to higher labor costs and limited access to markets outside heavily saturated Europe.

Although the Ampera is little more than a badge engineered version of the Volt, raising Opel’s profile should at least help the brand in the short term. As to the future of GM’s extended range electric car overall, in the US, sales have so far failed to meet expectations, not helped by negative publicity involving battery fire and leakage investigations last year.

Considering that both the Volt and Ampera are virtually identical and both are also targeted at European buyers, albeit through different dealer networks, it will be interesting to see how GM’s extended range electric car fares on the continent and if sales under one nameplate end up cannibalizing the other.

Last year, we spoke with some key GM executives in Detroit who said that the plan is to move both cars in different directions in terms of styling and features, so it’s clear there’s at least some kind of plan in place for the future of this car and also EV technology under each brand.