DETROIT – General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle and Ford Motor Co.’s redesigned Ford Explorer cross/utility vehicle win the North American Car of the Year and North American Truck of the Year Awards.

The announcement is made this morning at the opening of the North American International Auto Show.

The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year. They are considered benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

The winners are picked by a jury of 49 automotive journalists.

There was some speculation the Volt would not win because it has been accruing so many awards recently, but the car won handily, garnering 233 points from jurors, while the other finalists, the Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Leaf electric vehicle garnered 163 and 94 points, respectively.

While hybrid vehicles have won four times in the 18 years the prestigious awards have been given, this is the first win for a vehicle that can move a meaningful distance on electric power, alone.

The Explorer also won handily, garnering 253 points from judges, while Chrysler Group LLC’s redesigned Jeep and Durango SUVs received only 138 and 99 points, according to committee organizers.

Over the 18 years of the award program, the Detroit Big Three have won the North American Car of the Year 10 times. European auto makers have won four times, Japanese three times and Koreans once.

The Detroit Threes have won North American Truck of the Year 12 times in the period. Japanese auto makers have won four times and the Europeans twice.

dwinter@wardsauto.com