The 2011 Chevy Volt: Made Alongside GM's Gas-Guzzling V8s

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2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

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Think of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and very little seems conventional about it. With a range of 40 miles per charge and a range-extending gasoline engine used to provide extra power when the battery pack is depleted, Chevrolet is keen to push the car’s green credentials.

Built at the Hamtramck plant in Michigan, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will go on sale this fall at an MSRP of $41,000 - $8,000 more than Nissan’s all-electric 2011 Leaf.

So what vehicles get made alongside the 2011 Volt at GM’s flagship assembly plant?  Small hatchbacks? Fuel-efficient eco-warriors?

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Cadillac DTS 4-door Sedan w/1SA

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Cadillac DTS 4-door Sedan w/1SA

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How about a 4.6 liter V8 in the form of Cadillac’s 2011 DTS, which achieves a measly 23 mpg on the highway and just 15 mph in the city.

All hope is not lost however. Also produced on the Hamtramck line is the 2011 Buick Lucerne, a 3.9 Liter V6 capable of 26 mpg on the highway and 17 in the city.

While the irony that GM produces its most environmentally responsible car alongside two of its most luxurious gas-guzzlers is not lost on us, the move may have more sense in it than many would assume.

Setting up a production line for any car is a costly business. For each new model, retooling and staff training occur, impacting on plant efficiency every time that happens.

But when multiple models are produced in batches on the same line takes place, sharing equipment and staff can save a car company a lot of money - and enables the plant to continue working as new models are introduced or pulled.

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Buick Lucerne 4-door Sedan CXL

Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Buick Lucerne 4-door Sedan CXL

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As it turns out, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt isn’t assembled that differently to the Buicks and Cadillacs rolling off the line beside it.

Other than the obvious need to insert the Volt’s high-voltage T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack somewhere along the general assembly line along with the car’s complex electrical system, GM has designed the manufacturing process of the Leaf Volt to be very similar to any conventional car.

It seems one of the larger challenges facing the Hamtramck facility was modifying the assembly line’s car carriers, since the Volt is much smaller than the other two models produced at the plant.

But before you reach for the loud-hailer and boycott GM, or attack them for not taking electric vehicles seriously, you may want to pause a while first.

Mutli-model production lines are common and perfectly normal. The U.K. Nissan Factory where the European specification 2011 Nissan Leaf will be produced also produces at four other Nissan models on the same line, including a sport utility crossover vehicle, the 2011 Nissan Qashqai.

Industry optimization of production lines is common, espeically for a new line such as the Volt, which Chevrolet plans to make just 10,000 of in the first year. GM recently announced that it would increase original production plans for the 2012 model year to 45,000  following the car's popularity.

If you end up owning a 2011 Chevrolet Volt and find yourself waiting at the lights with a pimped-out 2011 Cadillac DTS beside then smile to yourself.

Your car was the black sheep at the gas-guzzling factory.

[Automotive news  (Requires Subscription)]

 
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