Ford sweeps Detroit Auto Show honors with Ford Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect

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Ford Motor Co., the only Detroit automaker that did not file for bankruptcy or receive government bailout funding in 2009, has swept the 2010 North American Car and Truck Awards at the Detroit Auto Show with its Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect.

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The double victory for Ford on Monday marked only the third time in the history of the award an automaker swept the competition. The honors are voted on by a panel of about 50 U.S. and Canadian automotive journalists.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid, the gasoline-electric hybrid that debuted in the U.S. market in March 2009, has gas mileage ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway. It was honored over the Buick LaCrosse and the Volkswagen Golf/GTI.

A utilitarian truck shorter than the Fusion, the Transit Connect defeated the Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback for the truck title. Introduced in 2002, the Transit Connect is a leisure activity vehicle that replaced the Ford Escort van line.

“A couple of years ago, a number of years ago,” we said we wanted to get back into the car business,” Mark Fields, president of Americas for Ford, told Reuters. “We wanted to do it with vehicles that had great quality, great fuel efficiency, technology and safety.”

Last year, the Hyundai Genesis and Ford F-150 pickup claimed the honors. Both vehicles had strong sales in 2009 in a largely dismal year for car manufacturers.

The awards annually designate the opening to the Detroit Auto Show. The occasion is also a platform for manufacturers to showcase their new cars. Vehicles that have undergone a major redesign or are new are eligible for the awards.

According the industry reports, Ford stock has gained 55 percent since November and more than quadrupled over the past year as the No. 2 U.S. automaker.

Ironically, the two award-winning Ford vehicles are assembled outside the United States — the Fusion in Mexico, the Transit Connect in Turkey.

“We still have a long way to go … getting the business back to healthy profitability,” Fields said to USA Today. “We have to channel that good feeling into our efforts for 2010.”

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