The 2009 Car of the Year, the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, received its most important accolade last night at a presentation ceremony that broke all COTY conventions by involving the people who actually built the cars with the event itself.

Surrounded by an audience that comprised more than 600 line workers, along with designers, engineers, managers and office workers - plus around 50 of the competition's 59 jurors (from 23 countries) - COTY's retiring president, Ray Hutton presented the trophy to GM Europe chief Carl-Peter Forster amid cheers and emotional scenes not often associated with the somewhat straight-laced COTY events of the past.

Most of the audience comprised regular night shift employees, wearing white "COTY" t-shirts specially donned for the occasion, whose Insignia final assembly line had been briefly halted to allow the ceremony to take place.

The event, co-hosted by Autocar, also included GM's announcement that it intends to make and launch a European-styled version of the Chevy Volt electric saloon, in both left and right hand drive, about six months after the Volt, a debut in 2010. 

Activities then transferred to Opel's historic cars workshop, and to a dinner among the museum properties, during which a selection of eye-popping Opels, very old and very new, were driven through the throng. These  included the original GTC coupe concept, the design  which foreshadowed Insignia and a whole new look for Opel's bigger cars, a move overseen by Mark Adams, GM's design director.