Koreans Scratch Their Heads Over Linguistically Indistinguishable Chevrolet ‘Bolt’ and ‘Volt’

Contrary to any rumor anyone may have heard, there are no plans for a Chevy Volt EV, or the Bolt EV being sold in Korea, or even that the Korean co-engineered Bolt should be called the “LG Bolt.”

No, while GM is otherwise still mum on key details like the U.S. EPA-rated range for the “over” 200-mile 2017 Chevy Bolt due in U.S. dealers by year’s end, there is even greater uncertainty in the country which is supplying many of its key powertrain components.

This is a Volt. It is not a Bolt. It runs on electricity for 53 miles, and gas the rest of its 420 EPA-rated miles.

This is a Volt. It is not a Bolt. It runs on electricity for 53 miles, and gas the rest of its 420 EPA-rated miles. The Bolt EV has already been known as the “Bolt EV,” but if it was ever an option to call it just “Bolt,” that’s been nixed in Korea.

As English speakers know, General Motors in its wisdom chose to name the Bolt to rhyme with Volt in English. The catchy one-syllable name stands to tie the new car’s identity to the extended-range paternal grandfather, the Volt, and gives it a neat family identity.

But while Americans have already scratched their head over that one, and have taken to clarify “B” from V” in English, in Korea there’s a bigger issue: the spoken or written words “Volt” and “Bolt” in their native tongue are essentially identical.

That is, V and B have common pronunciation and the printed or written Hangul symbols are identical, so if you say “Bolt” you could just as well really mean Bolt, or Volt, and really, there is barely any way to tell them apart.

Oy! What’s a global automaker to do?

To be sure, the issue has caused more than a little confusion, according to a report by Wards Auto.

Complicating the pre-existing phonetic ambiguity was a recent LG Electronics press release stating it was beginning production this month of 11 components for the Chevy Bolt EV.

The Bolt EV was designed at GM Korea’s Bupyeong Design Center in collaboration with LG. Almost all advanced prototyping and development was done in the U.S But because so many critical components are being produced by LG, including motors, onboard charging system, battery pack, high-power distribution modules and some infotainment systems, observers have taken to calling it the "LG Bolt."

The Bolt EV was designed at GM Korea’s Bupyeong Design Center in collaboration with LG. Almost all advanced prototyping and development was done in the U.S But because so many critical components are being produced by LG, including motors, onboard charging system, battery pack, high-power distribution modules and some infotainment systems, observers have taken to calling it the “LG Bolt.”

LG did not clarify the parts were going to the U.S. for the electric car’s final assembly, and meanwhile the extended-range electric Volt is coming to Korea this year in a car-sharing program, so reports had to be denied that the all-electric Bolt is coming also to Korea.

Wards documented its first-hand experience, not from a Korean person on the street, or an employee at LG, but by no less than a GM Korea media representative who is supposed to be on guard for the tongue-twisting mix-up.

“There is no plan to launch the Bolt in Korea,” a GM Korea spokesman said to WardsAuto. “It will launch in the U.S. and likely in two international markets sometime after that, and Korea may be one of them.”

Aside from the misunderstanding about which car is being discussed, it is correct the Bolt electric car has not been announced as coming to Korea, it is slated for North America, and ultimately Europe as the Opel Ampera-e, but fuzzy distinctions remain.

So, GM Korea came up with a solution. It has chosen to add the English letters “EV” after the Hangul spelling of Bolt but the Volt will just be the “Volt.” Simple right? Now everyone just has to remember the Bolt EV is the new electric car, and the Volt is the EREV now in its second generation.

This expedient may help both consumers and the people involved in the supply chain – and even GM’s media reps themselves – to distinguish the two cars.

Bolt is to be built in the Orion assembly plant. GM has not announced start of production, but it's believed it could be October based on prior disclosure. LG is in process of sending components now.

The Bolt is to be built in the Orion assembly plant. GM has not announced start of production, but it’s believed it could be October based on prior disclosure. LG is in process of sending components now.

But whether this puts a clear resolve on the problem will remain to be seen. For his part, difficulties could still arise, said Korean language expert, Brian Ro.

Ro, who served as a linguist in the United States Air Force for several years, posed how a conversation between two Koreans might go:

A: “Hey, did you hear about the Chevy Bolt EV?”
B: “Yeah, the Volt is really cool! My friend in America has one.”
A: “Wait, you talking about the Volt? I’m talking about the Bolt EV.”
B: “Huh? There is a Volt EV? I thought it was an EV already?”
A: “No, the Bolt EV! The one that doesn’t have a gas engine!”
B: “What? There is a Volt EV without a gas engine?? What a stupid idea! Who would buy a car that only goes 53 miles on a charge!”
A: “What?!”
B: “WHAT?!”

The above is fictional, of course, but if you thought Americans had it tough saying “I mean Bolt with a ‘B,’ not Volt with a “V,’” maybe a cultural sensitivity class would be in order for someone in marketing somewhere?

Not sure, but Ro said the above is otherwise reasonable.

“I could totally see that happening between two Koreans,” he said.

Meanwhile everyone is waiting for news revealing the specs for the first 200-plus-mile range EV to sell for under $37,500 before incentives.

It is called the Chevy Bolt EV. That’s Bolt with a “B.”

Wards Auto