A new phase for Chevrolet Volt

October 10, 2009

A new phase for Chevrolet Volt

BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

The Chevrolet Volt moved significantly closer to America’s driveways as the last pre-production version of the extended-range electric vehicle rolled out of General Motors’ test-assembly facility in Warren on Friday.

Gliding so silently through the factory aisles that quality auditor Shelia Asunto beeped a discreet pedestrian-alert horn to let workers know it was coming, the Volt’s next stop is GM’s Milford proving ground and a career in hostile environments to make sure its electric drivetrain functions in extreme temperatures.

After more than a year of testing cobbled-together car bodies that made the revolutionary Volt look like any other development vehicle, the Volt’s advanced and aerodynamic body gives a hint of why GM thinks it will reshape the automaker’s image and establish Chevrolet as a world leader for advanced technology and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Its spacious interior included novel features like gauges the driver can reconfigure to display different sets of information, a spinning, three-dimensional "Volt" logo on a touch-screen panel, and a green charging light for when it’s plugged in between drives.

Things can change in a year, but it would be very surprising if all those features on the 74th and final preproduction Volt don’t make it to the model that will be sold at Chevrolet dealerships.

"This is our shining moment after all we’ve been through with the bankruptcy this year," said Andy Pawlaczyk, chairperson of UAW Local 160, which will build the Volt with Local 122 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. About 20 UAW workers from Detroit-Hamtramck worked alongside the preproduction workers at Warren.

The Volt, which aims to cover 40 miles on battery power alone and travel longer distances with a small onboard gas-powered generator, should reach dealerships in November 2010.

"This is the same kind of work we do on any new car, but it’s got a different purpose," said Keith Brown, who assembles new vehicles in the preproduction facility. "We want to get off foreign oil. I hope everybody buys the Volt and loves it, and we can push the industry in that direction."

Recent visits from the British minister of industry and Australia’s prime minister — both of whom want GM to build the Volt in their countries as well as the United States — demonstrate interest far beyond Detroit.

"This gives us so much hope for the future of our plant and General Motors," said Patrick Marano, an assembly team leader from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

An upcoming three-day test drive by GM engineers and senior executives will help identify final issues to resolve before the Volt goes on sale, chief engineer Andy Farah said.














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