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GM Pushes Up Production Of Volt Electric Car
Posted on: Tuesday, 8 July 2008, 12:50 CDT

In the wake of an economic downturn, General Motors Corp is hurrying production of its Chevy Volt. It now hopes to unveil a showroom-ready model in September, according to sources close to the project.

GM is expected to complete the production version of the Volt by early August so that it will be ready in time for its 100th anniversary in September. The company hopes the Volt will break its public image of being a gas-guzzling vehicle maker.

"Everyone is waiting for the next steps," Rob Peterson, spokesman for GM's electric vehicle program. GM designers and engineers are "getting very close" to a production-ready version of the Volt, he said.

Peterson declined to comment on the timeline for its next announcements on the Volt, which will include naming a supplier for the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack, the single most expensive element of the vehicle and the component seen as critical to its success.

The concept version of the Volt was unveiled in January 2007, but GM has made significant changes to the look of the vehicle since then, in part to improve its aerodynamics.

GM has already shown a near-production version of the Volt to a Los Angeles-area focus group of consumers as it pushes toward production of the vehicle by late 2010 under a development plan the GM board approved in June.

The Volt will be designed to run 40 miles on its rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. It will also capture energy from braking, like a traditional hybrid, and feature an on-board engine that will be used to send power to the battery on longer trips.

GM is battling Toyota Motor Corp. to produce the first plug-in car, and has already featured the Volt in its advertising, part of a bid to improve the public image of the fuel efficiency of its car line-up.

GM’s stock hit a 54-year low last week in light of rising fuel prices and a public association of not being a fuel-efficient carmaker.

The company is expected to use the circuit of major auto shows that begins with Paris in October to unveil a series of upcoming vehicles that will underscore its effort to move away from a reliance on light trucks.

GM is always looking to Hollywood to generate interest in its new image. The Volt is one of several GM cars set to make an appearance in the action movie "Transformers 2," scheduled for release next summer, a person familiar with the matter said.

GM was heavily involved in the production of the first Michael Bay-directed "Transformers" film, released last summer, and provided a concept version of its 2009 Camaro for a central turn in the movie.

Two suppliers have been in the running to provide lithium-ion batteries for the Volt: A unit of Korea's LG Chem said last month that it was ready to supply batteries for the Volt, and German auto parts supplier Continental AG, adapting battery technology used by privately held A123 Systems, is also competing for the Volt battery contract.

GM celebrates its centennial on September 16, the anniversary of its founding by Billy Durant. It kicked off a series of events last year to mark the date, but those have been overshadowed by concerns about its performance and whether it has sufficient cash to ride out the downturn in U.S. sales.
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