GM to Launch Volt in California Next Year

Production of the car will be around 10,000 units in 2011, the first full year of manufacturing.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show .General Motors announced its decision to launch its hotly anticipated Chevrolet Volt electric car in California next year.

GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz said the Volt, which can be charged by a conventional electrical power outlet and can run for up to 40 miles without fuel, would be released in California in late 2010.

Other markets for the car, which analysts expect to retail at between $30,000 and $40,000, would be announced later Lutz said.

"California has long been a leader in environmental change and we at GM are excited to offer the Volt's technology to consumers," Lutz said.

The company also announced a partnership with California utilities which would see them receive a fleet of around 100 Volts. The scheme would also see the installation of more than 500 charging stations across the state. Between four to six thousand cars would be available initially, Lutz said, while production would increase to around 10,000 units in the first full year of manufacturing in 2011.

"Eventually we will be ramping up to full capacity of 50- to 60,000 vehicles a year," he said.

Lutz meanwhile refused to be drawn on the subject of Henderson's abrupt departure, which took the auto industry by surprise. "I think all of us were surprised and the whole General Motors team is genuinely saddened over what transpired," said Lutz. "He guided General Motors through perhaps the most difficult period in its history.

"I know you all would like to know the true inside story of what transpired at General Motors yesterday," Lutz added. "I'm not going to give it to you."

Lutz stressed GM had emerged stronger since its government backed bailout, saying the crises embroiling the company in recent years had "provided an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate and re-energize our strategy."

Developing vehicles products that did not run on traditional fuel sources formed a central part of that strategy, Lutz said. "I have no doubt that in years to come we will look back at this period as a time of great progress in the development of electrically driven vehicles," he said. "It will be every bit as momentous as the transition from horses to horsepower."

GM sees the Volt as a potential game-changing vehicle as it seeks to compete with Toyota's Prius hybrid, launched in 1997 and first introduced in the U.S. in 2001. The fourth generation vehicle was presented earlier this year. The Prius gets around 50 miles per gallon and retails at around $20,000. However GM believes the Volt's ability to travel for 40 miles on a single charge without gasoline may attract consumers who have short commutes. Nearly eight of 10 Americans commute less than 40 miles each day, according to US Department of Transportation data.

Once beyond the 40-mile range, a fuel-powered engine recharges the battery, extending the total driving range to more than 300 miles before refueling or stopping to recharge the battery, the company said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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