GM Will Not Extend Volt Brand to Future Hybrid Models

According to Brent Dewar, Chevrolet’s chief of global operations, GM will not brand its upcoming line of rechargeable vehicles in a way that identifies them with its highly anticipated Volt plug-in electric model.

There had been discussion of extending the Volt name across GM’s electric vehicle line in the same way Toyota plans to create a “family” of Prius hybrid vehicles of varying sizes to appeal to different market demographics. Unlike the Volt, which has yet to establish a track record, Toyota’s Prius gas-electric hybrid has come to control approximately 75% of the hybrid market since its introduction in 1990.

Dewar said, “Our thought is to take the Volt technology to other products. The Volt was the original vehicle that we started, but I wouldn’t see that as a brand marketing direction for us.”

He said that the Volt will serve as GM’s springboard for developing rechargeable battery vehicles that will also include gas-powered generators to offer extended driving ranges, but he added that those new vehicles will likely have their own, unique nameplates.

Speaking at last week’s Reuters Autos Summit in Detroit, Toyota’s group vice president of U.S. sales, Bob Carter, said that the automaker’s plan to extend the Prius brand to future offerings is based on the association that exists in the minds of consumers. According to Carter, the Prius name has become synonymous with hybrids in the same way the Kleenex name is now associated with tissues.

The Chevy Volt is scheduled to go on sale next year and will be the first mass-marketed plug-in hybrid available in the U.S. GM claims the Volt will be capable of running for up to 40 miles on a fully charged battery before switching over to its gas powered engine. The gasoline engine will help consumers overcome what Dewar calls “range anxiety” – the fear of being stranded that drivers of all-electric vehicles experience once their batteries become depleted beyond a certain point. The Volt will require no special charging equipment. GM says the vehicle can be charged using a standard 110 volt electrical outlet.

GM has estimated the Volt’s cost will be around $40,000. A consumer tax credit will reduce that price by $7,500, but this will still place the Volt thousands of dollars higher than the Toyota Prius and other hybrid competitors on the market.

GM anticipates first year sales of the Volt to be around 10,000 units but predicts second year sales to increase to around 60,000 units.

The Volt is scheduled to begin appearing in U.S. dealer showrooms next year, and the company plans a European roll-out sometime in 2011. GM’s Opel division (which the automaker just announced it plans to keep) currently sells an extended-range gas-electric hybrid, the Ampera, which is designed on the Volt platform in Europe. GM plans to maintain the Ampera alongside the Volt in European markets.

Ultimately, GM plans to market the Volt in Asian markets, but no target dates have been announced.

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