Ceremonial handshakes offer photo opportunities the world over, and so it is with the arrival of the first running Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car in China.

And despite earlier reports--including ours--to the contrary, General Motors plans to sell the car as a Chevrolet, rather than as a Buick--a brand that carries far more prestige in China than the mass-market Chevy label.

"At this time," said GM spokesman Rob Peterson, "we are planning to sell only the Chevrolet Volt in China." Which is to say, no models using the Volt's Voltec electric-drive system with a range-extending gasoline engine will be labeled as Buicks on the Chinese market.

At least that simplifies the number of different Volt variations and model names to be launched over the next couple of years (all of them built in Detroit, by the way).

Now the Volt will be sold globally under four brands and two model names:

  • 2011 Chevrolet Volt (North America) & 2012 Chevrolet Volt (China)
  • 2012 Opel Ampera (Europe)
  • 2012 Vauxhall Ampera (U.K.; Vauxhall is the British brand now used on RHD versions of most Opel models)
  • 2013 Holden Ampera (Australia, with Holden being that country's traditional home brand since 1931)

2012 Opel Ampera, first pre-production vehicle, April 2010

2012 Opel Ampera, first pre-production vehicle, April 2010

Opel Ampera Prototype

Opel Ampera Prototype

The photo-op in question centered around GM's delivery of a pair of running 2011 Volts to the Shanghai Expo Bureau. They will be used to ferry VIPs through Expo Park, where the World Expo 2010 Shanghai is being held.

GM is serious about the Chinese car market, which last year surpassed the U.S. market to become the world's largest. And it will sell some of its newest and best technology in China.

Says Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group: "GM has made a long-term commitment to bringing our industry-leading technology to China."

The 2011 Chevy Volt goes on sale at selected U.S. dealers during November and December. Sales in China and Europe begin during 2011.

Chinese Volts will be offered with GM's OnStar safety, security, and communications system, including several Volt-specific aspects that allow owners to operate various car functions through their smart phones. It is one of the first times OnStar has been offered to buyers outside the United States.

Among other commands, a Volt driver can set recharging times, start the car, unlock the doors, and track the vehicle's road mileage and fuel consumption, all from a mobile phone or personal computer.

[General Motors]