General Motors will build Opel- and Vauxhall-branded versions of the Chevrolet Volt in the United States for export to Europe. GM will introduce the European versions of the plug-in electric car in 2012.
The Opel electric vehicle essentially will be the Volt with different styling, says a source familiar with GM's plans. Opel, GM's German brand sold in most of Europe, and Vauxhall, its British brand, have wider dealer networks in Europe than Chevrolet does.
The first of the vehicles sold in Europe will be built in the United States, Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, told Automobilwoche, a Crain Communications publication that covers the German auto industry.
GM will build the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. It has a target date of late 2010 to launch the gasoline-electric vehicle in North America.
"The first generation of E-Flex models is based on GM's compact class," Forster said. Yet these cars won't be especially affordable, he said: "Customers will have to adjust to a substantial surcharge."
The price could be "up to 10,000 euros more than a comparable model with a conventional power train." That's about $15,738 at current exchange rates.
In the United States, GM executives expect the Volt to cost more than $40,000 unless the government offers a tax incentive.
But Forster sees an advantage for the customer. "At the gas prices that we now have, an electric car would be significantly less expensive per kilometer driven."
The purchase price also is expected to fall "dramatically" as volumes rise, he said.
E-Flex models store energy in a lithium ion battery, charged when necessary by the vehicle's gasoline or diesel engine. Forster says projections about the market size for electric vehicles are "purely crystal-ball gazing. Demand depends on the price of oil." But inside GM, management expects the Volt to be a high-volume vehicle.