By James B. Kelleher
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co <F.N> swept the 2010 North American Car and Truck Awards at the Detroit auto show on Monday, marking only the third time in the 17-year history of the award that a single automaker has claimed both titles.
A panel of about 50 U.S. and Canadian automotive journalists named the Ford Fusion Hybrid the car of the year and the Ford Transit Connect, a European-style delivery van, the truck of the year.
The Fusion beat out the Buick LaCrosse and the Volkswagen Golf/GTI for the car title, while the Transit Connect, a truck that is actually shorter than the Fusion, edged out the Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback for the truck title.
The automakers typically use the awards, presented at the start of the North American International Auto Show, to market their vehicles. Last year's winners -- the Hyundai Genesis and the Ford F-150 pickup -- were both standout sellers in an otherwise dismal year for the industry.
"A couple of years ago -- a number of years ago -- we said we wanted to get back into the car business and we wanted to do it with vehicles that had great quality, great fuel efficiency, technology and safety," said Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford.
Ford is the only one of the three Detroit automakers that did not file for bankruptcy last year or receive any of the $120 billion the U.S. government spent to prop up the industry.
And unlike General Motors <GM.UL> and Chrysler <CCMLPD.UL>, its top leadership has been steady since 2006, when Ford brought in an outsider -- former Boeing executive Alan Mulally -- to take the reins.
"I think there's been a big advantage in the steady management over the last three years," said John Casesa, managing partner at Casesa Shapiro Group.
"It's kept the strategy very consistent ... I think they have done a great job of taking advantage of the disarray of their domestic opponents."
Ford stock has gained 55 percent since November and more than quadrupled over the past year as the No. 2 U.S. automaker steered clear of the government bailouts that wiped out equity in its domestic rivals and prompted a massive restructuring of the industry.
While Ford was the only U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, its relative success has complicated its efforts to win concessions from the United Auto Workers, its major union.
The two Ford vehicles that won on Monday actually are both assembled outside the United States -- the Fusion in Mexico and the Transit Connect in Turkey, though some alterations are made to the Transit Connect in North America.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger reacted to news of Ford's sweep on Monday, telling Reuters, "I'll be damned. That's good."
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher, editing by Dave Zimmerman)