By on May 24, 2010

Any minute, or at least by the end of the month, the Chinese government will reveal super-secret plans to throw serious subsidy money at clean energy cars. The plans have been so secret that the Chinese market from mild hybrids all the way to full plug-ins came to a standstill with everybody waiting for the government to dole out heavy cash. Of course, GM doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines of this bonanza.

According to Gasgoo, buyers of all-electric vehicles will be eligible to get as much as 60,000 yuan ($8,789) each, plug-in hybrids qualify for 50,000 yuan ($7,323), normal hybrids will receive a government donation of 3,000 yuan ($440). China’s cash for clunkers program Will be scrapped. As predicted, it was a resounding failure. There are very few clunkers in China.

Anyway, GM wants to have a share of the plug-in boondoggle. Much to the chagrin of the Chinese government that is proud of China’s EV prowess, Shanghai GM won’t sell a native model. GM will import the Chevy Volt and sell it as a Buick with a yet unreleased name. Well, they won’t exactly import the Volt, they’ll import the Opel Ampera. According to Green Car Reports, the Opel Ampera is “basically a Chevy Volt with a nose job.” No wonder, the Euro is relatively cheap in China these days. And where would Buick China be without Opel Rüsselsheim?

According to TheTycho, “the Opel Ampera will be on sale in China in the first half of 2011.” Whereas Europe is supposed to get the Ampera a half year later. So the electrified Opel is exported to China before the Germans will lay their hands on it? That’ll drive them nuts.

How did the secret elope so early? TheTycho used the patent-pending trick of scouring Chinese patent applications. GM had to apply for a patent in China to prevent BYD and others from copying the Volt/Ampera, and bingo, the new car was as secret as the government’s subsidy plans.

Now what will the car be called?  Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera … Buick Watts would be the logical step. Or Buick RMS? Or Buick AC/DC? Watt say you?

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28 Comments on “China Imports The Chevy Volt – Or Rather The Opel Ampera...”


  • avatar
    Stingray

    Buick Electron or Electra.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    All Opel amperas will be made on the volt production line. No Euro production planned.

  • avatar

    So US tax dollars are paying German designers and engineers their salaries? You can’t get much lower than GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Buick61

      The Ampera was designed and engineered in the U.S. It will also be built in the U.S.

      If you’re going to be so absurdly biased against GM, at least get your facts straight.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Good lord. That thing looks like a catfish.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Put curb-feelers on each side and in the grand tradition of product names that likely sound better in Chinese than English, call it the “Happy Fish.”

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Bertel,

    How are the Chinese on time-to-market? From concept to production? As in, how fast can Chinese auto manufacturers respond to stimuli like cash-for-EVs? Faster than the Japanese?

  • avatar
    mdwheary

    Looks like the Chinese get the honor of beta testing this vehicle before it’s ready for the ‘real world’ market.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    It is really funny reading the article considering it is being made in Michigan.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Wonder what this is gonna do to availability of the Volt in the US market. I’m hoping they’ll be on dealer lots Spring 2011.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    “A car, Made in Germany, that is exported to China first before the Germans will lay their hands on it? ”

    Well this was poorly fact-checked.

    The Ampera will be built in Michigan, USA; not Germany.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      OK, fine, its country of origin is settled.

      But since GM has already declared the Volt to be a money-loser for the forseeable future, how many hands can get into the money pot to pay everyone who touches a Chinese Volt in its travels from Michigan to Germany to China?

      Volts sold in Michigan will lose money; how much more the ones sold in China which make a world tour? Or will the $40k MSRP be adjusted upward accordingly, making the $8800 subsidy less meaningful?

  • avatar
    BDB

    The Volt and all its derivative, with the exception of the RHD Vauxhall version, will be built in Detroit. Research fail.

    I for one favor calling the China version “Buick Electra”, fits with the theme and its a great name from Buick’s history. I have no idea how this translates to Chinese, though.

    I thought the Volt and friends were vaporware for the longest time, but it really looks like GM is going to pull this thing off. At least the first part, anyway.

  • avatar
    vildhund2010

    Ifail….

  • avatar

    I am amazed how irrelevant all the GM brands became. The same vehicle, the Volt, will be sold in the states as a Chevy, in China as a Buick and in Germany as an Opel. The Insignia, an Opel, becomes a Buick in US just with a grill change. Daewoos are sold in US and Europe as Chevys and so on. In the past some of the vehicles were slightly modified to fit the brand but lately it looks like the brand image is bent just enough to fit a new vehicle coming from an other continent. Looks very messy and out of control.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Isn’t this the same idea as “One Ford”, or what many other car companies do worldwide? How about the rebadged (badge engineered?) Euro Honda Accord posing as an Acura? What about VW and it’s common platform but 38 (sarcasm) brands built on top of it? Oddball JDM Toyotas being sold as Scions in North America? How is that different than what GM is doing with it’s cars? Or is it bad because it’s GM?

      Wasn’t the huge (and costly) proliferation of platforms one of the things that GM bashers criticized the company for?

      It seems to me that GM is in the process of rationalizing their brands, with Chevrolet as a worldwide brand and the existing national brands (Opel, Holden, etc.) moving upscale. Time will tell, but that’s what it looks like to me.

    • 0 avatar

      @geozinger
      I was referring to GM because the post is about a GM product which fits the image. If we generalize, yes, you are right, there are many vehicles shared by many brands and I would put them in the same bucket.

      “It seems to me that GM is in the process of rationalizing their brands, with Chevrolet as a worldwide brand and the existing national brands (Opel, Holden, etc.) moving upscale.” True, the only problem is that the brands are rationalized on paper (or I should say Power Points?) but in reality they are derationalized. I have hard time accepting, as a consumer, that a Chevy becomes an upscale product just by replacing its badge with a Buick one, or Opel, or Holden, etc. What do these brands stand for if their products are differentiated just by an emblem and a grill?

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t seen anything about Opel going upscale. It’s a definitive middle-of the-road brand. It wants to design smaller cars, not bigger ones. It definitely is in no position to take on the likes of Audi/BMW/Mercedes.

      An upscale brand needs the world as a market. By GM fiat, Opel has been relegated to Europe. That alone is tantamount to a death sentence. Europe is saturated, sales are going down, not up. EU carmakers survive through exports and joint ventures in China. Opel is not allowed to go there, except as a provider of technology for Buick China. As the IP is owned by GM, Opel works for nothing.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @lucian: I think there’s more to it than just changing out the badges. The different brands have different levels of equipment.

      @Bertel, It’s MY impression that this is what’s happening, from observing recent trends. I have no inside information on what the real plans are, and I may very well be mistaken. I can see the beginnings of a “One GM”-like structure taking place. How this manifests itself in each market, is a different story.

    • 0 avatar

      @geozinger
      Correct, but in a normal world that’s called trim levels, not different brands. Same can be said for Chevy-GMC.

  • avatar

    It is true that it looks like the first batch of Volts / Amperas / Buicks ??? will be built in the USA. At least that’s what GM says for American consumption. In Europe, their Nick Reilly plays a different tune. He is using the Ampera “as a carrot when it comes to who will produce the car in Europe,” writes the Financial Times Germany. To be precise: As a carrot for government aid. Production of the Ampera was promised to Bochum, Ellesmere Port, and to Spain. Whoever comes up with the money gets the car, says Reilly. Whether the volume (current plan 40,000) is enough to keep two locations busy doesn’t seem to matter. Those who complain about sloppy research should call up Reilly and ask him whether European plans have been scuttled. He’ll deny – until EU governments will formally deny financial support. Until he says otherwise, I’ll trust him that the Ampera will be built in Europe. Possibly even in 2011, if that’s what it takes to get government money. Who am I to call Reilly a liar?

    • 0 avatar
      Tricky Dicky

      I’d like to think the appropriate moniker for this car would be the “Vauxhall Short-Circuit”. Good luck to Reilly trying to ‘trip’ money out of any European government’s coffers right now. It’s not going to happen, which should make big-Ed Whiteacre pleased: he gets to fulfil his own words from 14 Nov 2009:

      “If Mrs. Merkel declines help, we will pay for it ourselves. Maybe this will make your chancellor happy”

      :-P

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The point is, the car won’t be exported from Germany before the Germans get a hold of it and may not ever be built in Europe at all, but that could all change sometime later.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re calling Reilly a liar?

      Who knows, the car may even have to be made in China to qualify for the government handout. We’ll know more when the ruling has been handed down.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    I don’t think Reilly is a liar. Probably a very pleasant chap. But in effect, he’s got to take the slap in the face that ‘Mrs.Merkel’ owes to Big-Ed. The trouble for Opel, is that in German public sympathy, they are still perceived as a pawn of GM, so if you beat Opel, it seems like it is people in the RenCen-Detroit who are suffering. That’s an easy sell isn’t it?

    I think best case scenario for Reilly is that he manages to scrape a token €100M here or there and gets a chance for some cash infusion from the profit-making, IPO bound, all debts re-paid, ass-kicking parent company.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I can’t wait for Geely to make a rip off of the Volt. The name possibilities are endless.

  • avatar
    Rusted Source

    Buick Loadmaster?


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