GM seems hell bent on convincing the automotive media that it’s better to stay behind their keyboards than show up to events like the Chevrolet Centennial event I was lured into. While my fellow oblivious “automotive journalists” and I were shuttled around GM’s facilities for some luxurious but entirely un-newsworthy “access,” the folks that aren’t here have scooped us suckers on the only remotely relevant news to come out of this event. The Detroit News‘s Christina Rogers reports that a news conference scheduled for about 12 hours from now will give GM occasion to announce that it will bring a
a small, battery-powered vehicle designed for urban market
to the US market. And, in the time-honored blogging tradition of speculating about speculation, GreenCarReport‘s John Voelcker has connected the dots that seem to confirm that this forthcoming EV will be based on the Spark City Car. All while us event attendees were still at the bar, drinking on GM’s dime. Oy…
First off, the Detroit News report seems reliable, as a couple of Volt-program employees that I spoke to this evening were suddenly very amenable to the idea that GM might bring a “small, niche” pure EV to market (without actually confirming anything, of course). And, naturally, none of them thought for a second that such a hypothetical pure EV might in any way take away from the Volt’s “range anxiety”-centric marketing approach. Despite the fact that their boss has publicly ridiculed the entire concept of a pure EV (when a competitor was launching one). Which, given the way these things work, seems to be about as close to confirmation as a lowly blogger like myself is ever likely to receive that a GM pure EV is in the offing.
And if GM is bringing a “small” pure EV to market, there’s only one possibility: a developed-in-India Spark conversion, which GM took over from its former partner REVA in May of last year (and recently showed off in India). GM only has one other A-segment city car in development, the “Opel Junior,” which is still in the mule prototype phase, and won’t be released until 2013. The Spark, on the other hand, has been around for several years now, and GM’s in-house development of the EV version dates back a good year-and-a-half.
But why would GM risk the validity of its “range-anxiety”-focused Volt marketing approach over what is likely to be an even smaller-volume vehicle in the US market? In a word: California. As Voelcker puts it
volume will be low, perhaps 2,000 cars a year. This may be just enough for GM to comply with California’s unique Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate.
That number may, in fact, be roughly similar to the planned volumes for the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, another battery electric conversion of a gasoline car to be sold in California by another large global automaker.
So, we’re looking at a super-low volume, CARB-pacifying, Spark-based EV… likely with batteries from GM’s partner LG. And, if an Indian-developed, Indian- or Korean-produced EV with Korean batteries isn’t what you had in mind, consider that the only possible alternative is a larger all-Chinese Chevrolet “New Sail” EV, which were supposed to start testing at the end of last year. And in terms of post-bailout green-car optics, “Made In India” or “Made In Korea” beats “Made In China” hollow. In other words, my money’s on an EV Spark… but I’m willing to make some reasonable odds if you have a more plausible scenario.
[Disclosure: GM has been stuffing me with food rather than information for the last several days, hence the speculation. Also, gambling is wrong.]