By Sharon Terlep
OF DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
DETROIT–General Motors Co. said Tuesday that its new Chevrolet Volt electric car is expected to get 230 miles per gallon in city driving, as the auto maker outlined a raft of vehicles headed to the U.S. market.
The Volt is at the forefront of GM’s efforts to reinvigorate a lineup that has lost market share in the U.S., with 25 new vehicles due to be launched by 2011.
GM hopes the Volt’s launch in 2010 will boost efforts to cultivate its environmental image, a key element of the company’s restructuring efforts.
The gas consumption pledge promises to start a miles-per-gallon battle among global auto makers as they rush to deliver electric cars, a segment that some executives believe could account for 10% of sales within four years.
“Having a car that gets triple-digit fuel economy can and will be a game-changer for us,” said Fritz Henderson, GM’s chief executive, at a media event.
He said he is confident the Volt’s expected combined city and highway mileage will remain in the triple digits. The company said the car will use 25 kilowatt hours per every 100 miles driven.
The Volt’s mileage and range guidance, released for the first time, reflect new guidelines for electric cars being finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Nissan Motor Co. this month unveiled the LEAF, an all-electric plug-in hatchback. On Tuesday it responded to the Volt news with a reminder that the LEAF would get a 367 miles-per-gallon rating under the EPA guidelines.
Henderson acknowledged that the Volt’s high price tag, expected to be around $40,000, and lack of available public outlets are potential challenges. Buyers would be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit.
The Volt will be unprofitable for GM at launch because of the high battery and development costs. GM is counting on mass sales and economies of scale down the road to make the vehicle profitable.
The car is powered by a lithium-ion battery with a range of around 40 miles that can be recharged though a traditional power outlet. A small gas-powered engine provides power on longer drives.
Henderson said Tuesday that GM remains on track to have positive net cash flow next year and report a net profit by 2011. It also intends to increase production amid improving domestic demand following the launch of a scrappage incentive scheme.
The new GM board has said it will drive management to accelerate bringing products to market. The new lineup includes a slew of new vehicles, including new high-end compact cars for Buick and Cadillac, a convertible version of the Chevrolet Camaro and revamped version of the subcompact Chevrolet Aveo.
-By Sharon Terlep, Dow Jones Newswires; 248-204-5532; firstname.lastname@example.org