There has been an awful lot of drama following the Chevrolet Volt. Issues arising over the car’s safety became a concern after a crash-tested battery fire prompted a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation — causing American consumers to become skeptical of the cutting-edge car. Unwanted political squabbling and negative right-wing publicity has seen the Volt both attacked and defended by politicians such as Newt Gingrich and President Obama respectively. And just recently, General Motors decided to pull the plug on the Volt – albeit temporarily – due to poor sales causing GM to lay off 1,300 workers in the process.

Despite consumers seemingly in revolt over the Volt, the car has become one of the most lauded in history. Last year the Volt won the North American Car of the Year award, while at the same time garnering similar awards and critical acclaim from Autmobile and Motor Trend, with the Volt even nabbing 2011 Green Car of the Year from Green Car Journal.

And despite its slow sales, GM may be able to take further solace after today’s announcement that the Chevrolet Volt, and its European counterpart, the Opel Ampera, nabbed the 2012 European Car of the Year, which was awarded by a panel of 59 judges from 23 European nations.

The Ampera and Volt managed to beat out the likes of Ford and its Focus, as well as 35 other vehicles, emerging as joint overall winner in a field of seven finalists. The selection criteria applied by the judges were based on attributes such as design, comfort, performance, and innovative technologies as well as efficiency.

“Our car demonstrates that electric driving can be fun and reliable without ever compromising the owners’ lifestyle,” said Susan Docherty, Chevrolet President and Managing Director for Europe. “It is a proud moment for us and an honor to receive this award from Europe’s leading jury of automotive journalists.”

Of course it comes as somewhat of a shock that the Volt/Ampera would be busy electrifying Europe – a market it wasn’t necessarily expected to sizzle in – while struggling on home shores in the states. Still, any positive publicity will be surely welcomed by GM – which will undoubtedly hope to leverage critical success abroad with commercial success at home.