American Volt fans have long discussed how the quasi-upscale extended-range EV might have fared with a Buick badge instead of being branded as a bread-and-butter Chevrolet, and it appears the Chinese may be the first to find out.
According to Chinese website Autohome, Shanghai GM gets it, and has pulled the strings and may rename the Chevy Volt the Velite for its brand that in China is more prestigious and which sells in higher volume.
While an announcement has yet to come from GM, things appear underway as the photo was reportedly taken at China’s agency that approves new vehicles before being sold, the Ministry of Cars.
Underlying the Chevy with a Buick badge on it is the same 1.5-liter plug-in extended range electric powertrain, says Autohome. Electric range for the Chinese market is estimated at 100 km (62 miles) – not far above the U.S. EPA rating of 53 miles for the Volt.
Whether the Volt-based Buick would be produced domestically or imported from the U.S. is unclear. GM would save itself tariffs and hope to sell more units in places like Beijing where some wear gas masks to prevent toxic air from invading their lungs.
The company previously attempted to sell the imported first-gen Volt in China, but at $79,000 apiece, it was prohibitively expensive and did no favors for GM’s joint venture partners.
In naming the new Buick, GM apparently will not use its “Electra” nameplate, a traditional Buick name GM applied to trademark in 2012, and which at the time set speculators to speculating. According to Autohome, the actual name is still up in the air. The beginning of name starting with “V” led it to suggest Velite is the new name. “Velite” was the name of a 2004 concept car but shares no similarities to it otherwise.
The second-generation Volt was designed at the behest of existing Volt owners despite sales being less than originally projected. Its revised drive unit – electric transmission – was revised to make it simple to use its architecture for more hybrids, and potentially plug-in hybrids. The Malibu Hybrid was co-developed alongside it.
The U.S. market second-gen Volt otherwise has not broken through previous sales barriers, it does represent an expense and investment in GM’s electrified future, and China is its number one market.
GM was an early pioneer in opening up a U.S. presence with joint venture partners in China. Its Cadillac CT6 PHEV was also developed first for that market, and is for export back to the U.S.
Sharing the Volt’s wealth could fit with GM’s global plans. In a separate report last February, what were represented as spy photos of the Chevy Volt being developed also for Europe were shown indicating the Ampera could be brought back despite assertions by GM to the contrary.
GM is in process of beating the band for its all-electric Bolt-based Ampera-e, but has not said an Ampera based on the Volt would come. Alternatively, and going out on a limb, it’s been speculated the shots of the purported Ampera for Europe were actually for China, but this is anyone’s guess.
More clear is the photo of the Volt with Buick badge sitting at the Chinese ministry indicate an extended-range Buick could be just a matter of time.
Hat tip James Melvin.