By on October 11, 2011

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.]

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13 Comments on “Who Wants To Bet GM Isn’t About To Introduce A Spark EV To The US?...”

  • avatar

    Get rid of the huge headlights!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      The headlights are normal size, it’s the CAR that’s tiny :D

      • 0 avatar

        The car is short. Look at the size of the headlight compared to the people in the picture. I understand the people are further back, but those lights have got to be at least 2 feet long. I don’t get why automakers have to do that. Why do niche segments all have to have some goofy trend to point out “hey I’m a hybrid/subcompact/electric/whatever car”?

      • 0 avatar

        The headlights are extra ugly to keep you from noticing how tiny the wheels are.

    • 0 avatar

      The big bugeye headlights that are fashionable on the latest round of new cars come from the wind tunnel. They detach the airflow over the mirrors, greatly reducing the drag caused by having a mirror stuck out into the airstream.

      In this light, I rather like them — but I did think they were ugly until I understood the reason why it makes sense to build them that way.

      • 0 avatar

        I understand aerodynamics. That same effect can be acheived through proper styling of the sheetmetal as well. There is no need to have the entire front corners of the car be headlights.

  • avatar

    GM will have to eat all those words about Nissan’s Leaf and “range anxiety”.

    • 0 avatar

      Why will they have to eat their words?
      Some people don`t have range anxiety either because of their personality or their regular commute/lifestyle. So why not offer a pure electric vehicle. Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan do. For those who have that anxiety or lifestyle then they have the Volt ( and Toyota have the Prius Plug-in). Perfectly reasonable to cover all bases. Also this, as stated by Ed, seems to be very low volume to satisfy regulations. A shame regulations mandate this but probably smart business.

      If they didn`t do this,m no doubt some would complain about GM missing the boat. Sometimes they can`t win whatever they do.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Does that mean Nissan will have to eat its commercial that mocks gasoline-powered devices? If I recall correctly, quite a few Nissans are powered by gasoline.

  • avatar

    I have it on good authority that it’ll be a Daewoo Matiz (the old one) based chassis with unused REVAi components. GM will use up whatever shells of the old car they have, mated to the REVAi’s woeful drivetrain to give us a car that’s slower than a golf cart and twice as likely to crush into a recycling-bin friendly pancake in a crash.

    It’ll cost them about a thousand dollars in parts and Indian labor, and will sell for $20k retail.

  • avatar

    GM actually announced a Chevy Beat EV in India a few months ago (one of my Indian blogger buddies told me about it) so this isn’t really news so much as it is finally getting across the Atlantic.

    Not so much “connecting the dots” I hate to say, as this info has been floating around for at least 3 months.

    As to whether or not it will come to the US Market, well, we’ll have to wait and see…though the speculation I have heard is that there is simply no room in the Indian market for an EV as it would be well beyond what most new car buyers can afford in that country.

    In America? Things might be different. I’d bet you dollars to donuts though this is the exact same car GM’s Inida execs were touting over the summer.

  • avatar

    They should save themselves the development money and just knock 10 grand off the price of the Volt so they can move the 3000 or so that they’ve got now.

  • avatar

    Would not be caught dead driving that

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