The 2009 European Car of the Year has been announced, and in the very closest of contests the Opel (Vauxhall) Insignia has taken out the top spot with 321 points, marking a very important victory for General Motors. The Insignia edged out the Ford Fiesta by a single point, while the Volkswagen Golf took third place with 223 points.

The Insignia is the first Opel to win in 22 years but GM’s European division has been runner-up four times, with the compact Opel Corsa losing out to the Ford S-Max by just two points back in 2007. Ford on other hand has won the award five times but this time it has lost by one point.

The European Car of the Year awards is judged by a panel of 59 members, representing 23 European countries. National representation on the panel is related to the size of the country's car market and its importance in car manufacturing, with France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain topping the list with six members each.

This year’s narrow victory emphasizes the high level of this year’s competition, which had 37 initial candidates and seven finalists. Of the total 59 judges, 20 gave the Insignia top points, while 19 put the Fiesta in first place.

To be eligible, the cars must be available for sale in at least five European countries within the 12 month period prior.